Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Retirement Life, Boomer Generation and Lifelong Learning

As a generation who grow up during an educational revolution where college was available to most anyone who wanted to go, lifelong learning is at the very fiber of the boomer experience. Retirement life won’t diminish the quest to learn, grow and discover.

When I completed graduated school, I was eager to learn just for the fun of it. After seven (okay, I took the slow route) years to get my degree, I wanted to learn without the pressure of papers and exams. I signed up for a philosophy class at the local community college. Even though I took the class as pass/fail, it was hard. I didn’t take the exams, but if I was going to learn anything, I needed to read all of the books and complete the written assignments. I also took a creative writing class before I gave up on the community college to explore other options for lifelong learning.

I’ve had the honor of engaging Nancy Merz Nordstrom in an exchange recently. Author, consultant, and speaker, Nancy Merz Nordstrom is an expert on the concept, benefits and opportunities of lifelong learning for older adults, and how keeping minds challenged can enrich and enhance our After-50 years. Returning to school at age 51, after the unexpected death of her first husband, she became aware of the opportunities and challenges facing older adults, and has dedicated herself to the belief that lifelong learning is both empowering and life-affirming, regardless of age.
Using her book, "Learning Later, Living Greater: the Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years," Nancy now gives customized presentations, workshops and courses designed to help older adults develop fulfilling later lives. She also directs the Elderhostel Institute Network, North America’s largest educational network for older adults.

Southern California is often considered an intellectual wasteland, but I’m lucky to have two organizations dedicated to senior learning. Osher provides more academic classes taught by professors, while OASIS offers more leisure types of learning. Almost every community has a senior center with classes in everything from dance to fine arts to political awareness.

In addition to schools found locally, there is an abundance of destination lifelong learning centers found around the country. We’re in the process of researching many of them and will share information in the upcoming weeks.

Whether it’s taking classes online, locally or combining travel with learning, new retirees are finding an infinite variety of ways to expand mentally, physically and spiritually.

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