August means students across the country are heading back to school, and not all of those students are young children. A growing number of them are over the age of 50.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 17 million college students in the U.S., more than half a million of them are older than 50. Just this past May, Twila Boston graduated from Utah State University at the age of 98; 89-year-old Charlie Ball graduated from Arkansas Tech; 52-year-old Gac Filipaj got his undergraduate degree at Columbia University; and 76-year-old Dr. Roy Vandiver completed his third degree at Mercer University in Georgia. These stories are repeated over and over across the globe and it boils down to one thing – just because a person’s body is old, it doesn’t mean their mind is.
A survey by the AARP shows that adults over 50 want to stay educationally active. This is because it is rewarding. When an older person goes back to school they feel personal success when they learn something new. Committing to lifelong learning gives people a sense of who they are and gives them more control of the aging process. This time it’s about learning information for themselves, not for other people’s expectations. Going back to school helps them avoid sitting around and waiting for the inevitable.
Additionally, school helps people connect and break out of any isolation they may be in. Many educational activities can also be shared with a grandchild or other young person. They have new ways to meet other people and reach across generations.
The opportunities for older people to go back to school are also growing. Many community colleges or universities offer free classes to students aged 60 or older. University alumni associations also sponsor dozens of lectures each year and you don’t need to be a member to attend. Organizations like the AARP also offer group excursions for seniors.
This is where a caregiver can help. While a person’s mind may be in great shape to go back to school, a caregiver can help drive them there. A caregiver can also help with other errands while an older person does their homework.
For an older person, going back to school is another way they can keep their voice and stay independent, and caregivers want to help make sure they can reinvent their retirement and live the way they want to. People are living longer and they do not view themselves as senior citizens when they go back to school – instead they are lifelong learners.