The desire to learn never really goes away, no matter how old you are. Whether learning and training in a new skill or simply finding out more about a new topic, human curiosity endures. Older adults have a plethora of ways to satisfy that urge— both at home and in the classroom.
With a rise in courses, training sessions and online videos aimed at a new generation of students well-past college age, “Lifelong Learning” is continuously growing. A study by the American Psychological Association found that almost three quarters of American adults consider themselves Lifelong Learners.
Here are some local resources, whether you want to just learn a little about one subject or take a full course.
Many colleges and universities allow individuals 60 and over to take classes, provided space is available. Often these classes are available at a reduced rate or even for free, though adult students may also have to pay additional costs such as for books and required equipment. In addition, most area schools feature a variety of programs aimed at the adult student. A few examples:
Owens Community College (owens.edu/workforce_cs/continuing_ed)
Right now, Owens’ Continuing Education courses are cancelled due to COVID-19, though they are offering a variety of online courses. Workforce classes in subjects like teaching, time management, foreign language, mindfulness, bookkeeping and more online classes are available.
Lourdes University (lourdes.edu/about-lourdes/outreach/lifelong-learning-program)
The Lourdes Lifelong Learning program gives paying members access to monthly lectures as well as discounts on courses and field trips covering a variety of topics. This past summer’s online classes included discussions of 19th century presidents, a look at composer Kurt Weill and a series of workshops for seniors hoping to plan for the future.
The University of Toledo (utoledo.edu/uc/program60)
UT’s Program 60 offers lifelong learners a chance to take courses at a reduced price, provided they have lived in Ohio for the past year. Any course being offered at UT can be enrolled in, as long as the student meets the prerequisites and space is available. Program 60 students do not earn college credit through the program.
BGSU Elder College (firelands.bgsu.edu/eldercollege)
Located at BGSU Firelands in Huron, the University’s Elder College classes cover an array of subjects in both the classroom and on field trips. Civil War battles, innovations of the 20th Century and the history of the cello are just some of the topics that Elder College attendees have learned about this year.
University of Michigan’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (olli-umich.org)
The Osher program has a myriad of ways for older students to pick up new knowledge. Lecture series have focused on subjects like water quality in Michigan and living transgender. Small, intimate study groups on history, art, current events and more are offered, as well as the informal learning program Evenings with OLLI.
Khan Academy (khanacademy.org)
A highly respected resource for students of all ages, Khan Academy offers links to a variety of free online courses on a wide array of subjects. The site, founded in 2008 by educator Sal Kahn as a series of educational videos, maintains the spirit which continues today. Each course links to YouTube virtual “lessons,” with students then encouraged to answer questions to level up their mastery of the subject. From math to history to economics to computers and more, Khan Academy provides a great resource for anyone looking to bolster their knowledge.
If you’re looking for something more in-depth, Coursera may be right for you. The site, founded in 2012 by a pair of Stanford Computer Science professors, offers online courses that can be taken over several weeks or on-demand at your own pace. The website works in tandem with over 200 universities and organizations to present lessons on a dizzying variety of topics. You can even earn a full master’s degree through Coursera.
Academic Earth (academicearth.org)
This website is almost a comprehensive search engine for free online courses and videos of lectures, linking you to colleges all over the world. Launched in 2009, the site’s intuitive categorizing of courses in over 50 disciplines can help you find scholarly information and instruction in exactly what you’re looking for. Many of the world’s most respected academic institutions– Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, and more– can be found among Academic Earth’s catalogue.
One of the most exhaustive resources for online learning is a site you may have visited already. YouTube offers a remarkable selection of training and educational videos from thousands of creators, updated constantly. Dozens of universities post videos of lectures, experts in their field make instructional tutorials and fascinating analysis of history and modern issues are discussed. Once you find a subject or speaker you find interesting, it’s easy to catch up on other related, and available, information.