One of the best ways to keep your mind sharp is to take classes, gain knowledge, and learn new skills. That's good advice at any age, but it rings especially true for older adults.
To encourage lifelong learning, every one of the 50 states offers some form of reduced,or even free, tuition for seniors. In fact, there are so many options, we put together this list of resources and suggestions to start a learning adventure.
STATE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES
Many state universities and colleges offer programs for state residents aged 60 and over, some even for 50 and over. Programs can vary widely from state to state and institution to institution. Some programs offer no-cost class auditing that won’t earn credits. Others offer low-cost classes for credit or non-credit. Some, like The College of Wooster in Ohio, offer community members of any age one tuition-free class audit per semester.
The University of Minnesota has a robust program for state residents 62 and over. Seniors can audit classes for free or earn credits for just $10 per credit.
Looking for a program near you? The Penny Hoarder has a list of free or cheap learning opportunities for seniors in all 50 states.
Most urban communities offer a wide range of low-cost classes through their community education programs. These often focus on specific skills, such as photography, learning another language, or boning up on computer skills. But the range of options is usually pretty broad. For example, St. Paul Community Education offers everything from cooking and driver’s ed to business classes. Similarly, Minneapolis Community Education has a full range of opportunities, including lifelong learning for adults 55 and over. Check out your local community ed calendar to discover the opportunities.
Community centers and other local resources like parks, museums, and even retail shops offer general and special-interest classes in everything from using your cell phone to beekeeping. The 350 Jewish Community Centers (JCC) across the nation are just one example.
The opportunities for online learning seem endless. Some of the top universities have free online classes, including Harvard, MIT, UCLA, and Michigan State University. Many college and university courses are offered through companies like Coursera. Or, you can look into additional learning platforms offered online for free.
BENEFITS OF LIFELONG LEARNING
Aside from being just plain fun, lifelong learning has an array of added benefits. Here are just a few.
- Keep a Sharp Mind – This includes slowing memory loss, which learning new information and skills can help. In particular, focusing on new, unfamiliar skills can improve cognitive function.
- Make New Friends – Learning with others is a great way to prevent loneliness and isolation, make new friends, and share new-found interests.
- Retain or Build Physical Abilities – Taking a class isn’t just good for the brain. It can be good for the body, as well. Learning to use new tools in a woodworking class can help strengthen the upper body, just as joining a bird-watching group can have a restorative effect on the whole body. Consider learning a new type of physical exercise! There are plenty of free apps out there to give a try, too.
- Feel a Sense of Accomplishment and Purpose – Learning a new language, picking up a new skill, or creating a new work of art can all bring a deep sense of pride and even a renewed sense of life purpose. And that’s surely worth the price of admission!
The world of learning is vast and readily available to anyone who wishes to dive into it. Simply select your area of interest, and you'll likely find an assortment of online and in-person classes for you to choose from. It's time to ignite your curiosity and expand your knowledge. Let the learning begin!