The best low-cost learning for knowledge-hungry seniors
For many older adults, learning doesn’t stop after high school or college graduation. These lifelong learners always have a thirst for knowledge. With younger generations heading back to school this month and next, we’ve put together a list of inexpensive—and sometimes even free—ways older adults can quench their thirst (and maybe even teach their grandchildren a thing or two!).
Learn from your living room
The internet offers a quick and easy way to study virtually anything from the mating habits of woodpeckers to Western line dancing. Just type a topic of interest into Google or YouTube, and easily search dozens if not hundreds of relevant articles, blog posts, e-books and videos.
In the online realm, one outstanding resource is TED Talks, which provide a huge collection of informative and inspiring talks, such as speakers’ thoughts on humanity, fame and love. And if you’re interested in an outing, TEDx offers local, in-person events where you can hob-knob with other enthusiastic learners.
Also consider massive open online courses (MOOCs). In addition to listening to online lectures, MOOCs allow you to participate in online discussions and projects with other students. The extent of topics is huge, from food and nutrition to health to an introduction to artificial intelligence, just to name a few. You can find free online courses from many universities and colleges through companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity, and aggregator sites such as Class-central.
Grab a seat in a classroom with fellow older adults
Enrichment courses are served up at the 120 colleges and universities affiliated with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The price for OLLI courses, which are designed for 50+ adults, varies. The University of Michigan’s OLLI, for example, charges an annual $50 fee to access all classes (Conscious Aging is one sample) plus special interest groups and travel programs.
Return to college—without the debt
In the offline world, your grandkids would be quite jealous of the free or discounted courses many colleges and universities across the country offer to older adults. Sometimes these courses are audit only, meaning you won’t earn a credit, but if your goal is simply to expand your knowledge horizons, then it’s a perfect fit. Eligibility requirements for each program vary in terms of age (anywhere from 50 to 65), income level, educational background and residency. Get more information here.
Investigate options in your community
Nearby colleges and universities also often bring in experts to speak about everything from climate change to vitamin D to space exploration. These talks are open to the public and, depending on the event, may even be free of charge.
Community and senior centers are also a great hub for lifelong learners. You can attend general interest courses on health, fitness or computers to stay up on the latest information. Additionally, if you’re a public library patron, you can access free classes and workshops on subjects like art and genealogy. You can also take digital photography and other courses for free on Lynda.com, if accessed from the library.
Another convenient place of learning is retail outlets. At Whole Foods, for instance, you can master barbecued veggies or pan-seared scallops for an affordable price, while at The Home Depot you can learn about raised garden beds at one of its free workshops for do-it-yourselfers. Michaels stores also offer low-priced workshops on craft making, and REI delivers free nature walks as well as low-budget classes on outdoor-related activities.
Down the road at a Holiday Retirement community near you or a loved one, there are any number of lifelong learning events and activities. Peruse this online calendar to find the next one near you.