Education in Retirement

If you believe learning is lifelong, then you might consider continuing your education in retirement. But if sitting in a college classroom surrounded by people decades younger than you doesn’t sound appealing, you may be pleasantly surprised. Many retirees are choosing to go back to school, so it’s likely some of your classmates may be from your generation. Also, there are many online learning options available. Institutions across the country offer courses specifically for older adults and at a fraction of the regular tuition.

In this post, we’ll describe a few benefits of education in retirement and suggest some ways for you to step back into the classroom.

Benefits of Continuing Education

Going back to school as an older adult may conjure images of the Rodney Dangerfield movie from the 1980s, but continuing your education in retirement offers many appealing benefits. It helps you develop new skills and expands your horizons. It keeps your mind sharp and can help stave off mental decline and memory loss. It’s fulfilling and promotes self-esteem and a sense of purpose and achievement. And the most valuable benefit can be the social connections you form with your classmates and instructors.

Although you may think you’re too old to learn new things, learning ability actually continues throughout life. Your brain’s ability to pick up new things continues to grow as long as you keep using it.

Unlike when you were previously in school, now you can choose what to study. You’re not forced to take calculus or chemistry if those aren’t your fortes. From wine tasting to space exploration, there are classes to suit almost any interest.

Embrace the Unfamiliar

School today is very different from what you may remember. For one thing, there is a greater emphasis on technology. Almost all of the work is assigned, completed, and graded digitally. If you’re not on top of current digital technologies, it may be helpful to talk with your advisor or the instructor about the devices and websites that will be used to ensure you’re up to speed. You may have to become proficient with the latest software, but regard that as part of the learning process and one of the benefits of returning to school.

Enrolling in a new course can be exciting, but also unnerving if you’ve been out of school for years. It may take a mindset change to be comfortable being a student again. Although school may have changed since the last time you were there, you have much more maturity and experience now. Approaching your education with confidence and optimism can help you succeed in getting the most benefit. As with any new venture, taking it slowly at first may be advisable. For instance, you might consider auditing a course or two at the beginning.

Education Opportunities

If you’ve decided to pursue education as part of your agenda for retirement, there are many options.

Free or Reduced Cost Higher Education Programs

Public colleges and universities in all 50 states offer free or reduced-tuition courses for senior adults. You’ll need to follow the standard admission process; however, the tuition (but not books and other fees) are reduced or waived for older students. You can contact the admissions or financial aid offices at state schools in your area.

Area Agency on Aging

Area Agency on Aging organizations are located throughout the U.S. and offer referrals to training and education opportunities, transportation, and volunteer opportunities for older Americans. Many also operate senior centers with classes on arts and crafts and computers. You can consult the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website to find your local agency.

Bernard Osher Foundation

The Bernard Osher Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps people age 50 and over access learning opportunities. It provides scholarships to 120 colleges and universities across the U.S. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers noncredit classes on various subjects like history, philosophy, art, and music.


The U.S. Department of Labor funds the AARP’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) that helps lower-income older adults gain job-related skills to enter or reenter the workforce. Participants work part-time at public and nonprofit facilities like senior centers, schools, hospitals, and daycare centers, and are paid directly by SCSEP.

Local Libraries

Your local library may offer personal-interest and professional courses to community residents with a library card.

Online Learning

You can also learn from the convenience of your home by taking courses at some of the top universities in the country. For example, MIT’s OpenCourseWare provides free access to thousands of courses that span the entire institutional curriculum. These are free, noncredit courses offered as a service to learners and educators worldwide.

Volunteer Organizations

Many nonprofit organizations are looking for volunteers and offer training to volunteers so they can provide needed services. You can check with United Way or VolunteerMatch for training opportunities at service organizations.

We hope you found this post, Benefits of Furthering Your Education in Retirement useful. Be sure to check out our post, Living Abroad After Retirement, Right For You? for more great information.

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