2007-06-13 / Seniors

Lifelong Learning: Seniors' Continuing Education Options

Dear Savvy Senior,

I recently read an article on the mental and social benefits of senior lifelong learning or older adult continuing education programs (learning for fun without exams), and am very interested. Can you direct me to some resources that will help me find what's available in my area?

Senior Student

Dear Student:

The growth of older adult educational programs has been on the upswing in the United States over the past few years- and for good reason. Senior lifelong learning programs not only offer interesting and mentally stimulating educational opportunities, they also provide a wonderful social outlet, bringing together people with common interests. Here are some tips that can help you find out what's available in your area.

Local College

Your first step in finding noncredit adult education programs should be to contact a nearby college or university. While many may offer great educational options for seniors, others offer few or none. If your local college has limited opportunities, find out if auditing (attending a course that interests you without taking exams or receiving credit) is a possibility. Also check with your local library or Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number). They may know of other community sources that provide senior education programs. Here are some additional resources you should check.

Lifelong Learning Institutes

The top resource for facilitating senior education programs around the country is Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLI). The two organizations that support and facilitate LLIs are the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Elderhostel Institute Network. Together they offer around 450 programs nationwide. Although these programs are affiliated with colleges and universities, each institute is independent, setting its own curriculum, schedule, minimum-age requirement (usually 50) and annual fees, which are very affordable. The no-test, no-grade, noncredit classes are fun and intellectually stimulating. A wide array of academic courses in such areas as literature, history, religion, philosophy, science, art and architecture, economics, finance, computers and lifestyle issues, taught by active or retired faculty or by experts in their fields, are offered. In addition, these programs also offer non-academic activities such as writing groups, brown-bag lectures and trips to local attractions as well as domestic and international travel, art, theater and photography groups and more. To locate an LLI, visit www.osher.net or call 207-780-4076; visit www.elderhostel.org/ein/intro.asp also.

Oasis

Another educational resource to look into is Oasis (www.oasisnet.org, 314-862-2933), a nonprofit national organization that offers members age 50 and older challenging programs in the arts, humanities, wellness and technology. Oasis has centers in 25 cities serving more than 350,000 members. Membership is free.

Shepherd's Centers of America

This is a nationwide network of 75 interfaith community-based centers located in 21 states that offer older adults college-type programs on a variety of subjects. They also offer computer classes, intergenerational programs, personal finance classes, arts and crafts, travel trips and more. Classes are free or there may be a minimal fee. See www.shepherdcenters. org or call 800-547-7073.

SeniorNet

If you're interested in learning more about computers check out SeniorNet (www.seniornet. org, 800-747-6848), a national organization that helps people age 50 and older learn how to use the computer and maneuver the Internet. For a $40-per-year membership, SeniorNet offers a variety of online computer courses as well as instructor-led workshops at around 200 learning centers throughout the United States.

Senior Summer School

If a summertime adventure sounds appealing, visit Senior Summer School (www.seniorsummerschool.com, 800-847- 2466). Retirees can have a fun educational and sight-seeing experience at campus locations across the U.S. Programs range from two to eight weeks during the summer, and three days to one week in the fall and winter. Costs will vary.

One Day University

Another fun educational option is the One Day University (www.onedayu.com, 800- 811-8821). This is a day-long seminar taught by the best professors from Ivy League schools. The classes are held in the Northeastern United States, and cover such topics as American studies, bioethics, psychology, astronomy and political science. The cost per class is $219.

Savvy Tip: A useful book on this topic is Learning Later, Living Greater (Sentient Publications, $16.95) by Nancy Nordstrom and Jon Merz. It's available online or in book stores nationwide.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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