Going Back to School is Becoming a Trend for the Elderly

by Coastal Virginia Magazine | May 4, 2018

There are a number of reasons to go back to school after you’ve passed what is typically considered “college age.” For some people, going back to school is a way to finish the education that may have been started years ago but had to be put aside for one reason or another such as children, serving in the Armed Forces or perhaps just a lack of financing.

For many senior citizens today, the trend of going back to school may not have anything to do with the lack of a degree. Some go back to advance their degrees so they can feel a greater sense of accomplishment. Some go back just because they have the time and money now to invest in learning something new, and they can meet a lot of new people in the process. In other words, they may be going back just for the fun of it.

However, judging by the fact that in 2014 there were approximately 12 million college students under the age of 24 and 8.2 million students 25 and older, there are several other factors playing into elderly people going back to school.

One reason may be early retirement. Many individuals find themselves retiring earlier than they expected, especially when companies are offering attractive retirement packages to help eliminate the higher salaries senior members of the staff may be earning. Health factors and career “burnout” also contribute to high rates of early retirement. So, now that those seniors are back on their feet and ready to contribute once again, they are going back to school to learn new skills that will help make them competitive in new markets.

Finances may also be a factor. For those who retired earlier than expected, or who are looking at their long-range financial picture and not liking the view, they may see going back to school as an investment into a new career or to start their own businesses so they can supplement their future nest egg.

Flexibility is also a big factor for why older students are seeking job development or advanced degrees. With the onslaught of online courses that are now available to anyone with computer access, it’s easier to gain new knowledge without having to drive to a campus every day. Classes can be reviewed at the user’s convenience, and classwork can be completed accordingly.

Of course, not all continuing education classes have to lead to a degree or certification. Some adult education courses are offered to teach or enhance skills in areas such as food preparation or art history. These types of courses are beneficial for those who don’t want to invest a large amount of time into a formal education but who want several different options to learn new skills, meet new people and enjoy new challenges.

For retirement communities such as Mennowood in Newport News, cooking classes are not only offered to provide residents with a sense of self-sufficiency; they also help to impart important dietary lessons that can help residents who have specialty dietary needs but who still like to cook for themselves. Art classes are also offered, not only to provide a space for creativity and camaraderie, but the hands-on approach helps with balance and dexterity issues.

Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach knows their residents come from a wide range of different backgrounds, careers and interests but that they also have one thing in common: the desire to learn, be engaged and support their community.

To provide their residents with opportunities to learn and serve, Atlantic Shores offers several different opportunities for their residents to work with local students, support public service, support healthcare initiatives, enjoy “second chapter” careers and explore new interests that extend from on-campus initiatives to off-campus inspiration.

The bottom line is that seniors not only have a desire to learn and remain productive, but they also have a lot of experience and knowledge to pass along to others. By following their desires to seek new educational opportunities and continuing education, they not only provide a much-needed base of new talent for betterment of the economy; they can also share their wisdom to help the next generations learn and grow.

City and lifestyle magazine celebrating the Southeast Virginia region and its unique charm, customs and ways of living

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