Continuing Education Programs for Senior Living Communities


There’s a nip in the air. All the back-to-school photos have been posted on Facebook. Parents everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. (Remember those days?) Fall is here.

Even if you live in a senior community and were largely unaffected by the “back-to-school” mania, you can still reap some of the benefits. How about looking into continuing education programs to keep your mind sharp, or even realizing a lifelong dream of earning an advanced degree? It’s time to start gearing up for winter sessions, or to enroll in a school or online class with rolling enrollment programs.

Senior Communities Partner With Local Colleges
As part of the trend of “niche” senior living communities, many communities are partnering with community colleges and even four-year private or state universities to offer continuing education programs to seniors. From earning your bachelor’s or master’s degree at discounted tuition rates to taking a few non-credited courses in computers, cooking or political science (to name just a few), the possibilities are nearly endless.

Some programs provide transportation for seniors to study right on campus in regular classes, which is a great opportunity to get to know a whole new group of people. Other programs send professors to senior living communities to hold classes exclusively for the members of the community and other seniors who may sign up.

Getting Started
Talk with the activities director in your independent or assisted living community, or give local colleges a call to see what type of programs they offer specifically for seniors. They may offer incentives, scholarships, discounts, transportation or other support to attract seniors to their institution.

Before you sign on to any adult education or lifelong learning program, get a clear idea of your goals. If you want to learn a new skill you can use, you may look for hands-on learning programs in areas like the arts, writing, photography, cooking or computers. On the other hand, you may just want to learn more about a topic that interests you, from American history to foreign literature. In these cases, there are plenty of inexpensive or free, non-credit classes you can take.

It’s Never Too Late to Earn a Degree
If it’s always been a dream of yours to earn an advanced degree, you’ll want to start by speaking to an academic advisor at the college where you want to take courses. They can help you devise a program of study that will allow you to earn your degree as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Remember, you can always continue to take classes after you achieve that specific goal.

While seniors on college campuses still represent less than 1 % of the college’s total enrollees, the numbers are growing, especially in states like Florida. In 2011, according to an article in the Sun Sentinel, Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, had 20 students age 70+, and Nova Southeastern University, in the same area, had 40 graduates over the age of 60.

“What’s Your Major?”
While some seniors going back to school are looking to pursue a second career, many have different objectives than young people entering the work force. They’re not looking to be more employable or earn more money. This gives them a lot more flexibility in choosing a major.

Think about what excites you. What field do you have such passion for that you’ll stay focused and interested for two to three years or more?

You might decide to earn an advanced degree in the same field you’ve worked in for years. In this case, you may be able to fast-track your diploma with life experience credits. Even if you’re studying a different field, ask about life credits for certain courses, which can reduce your study time, as well as costs, and help you get to your goal faster. The important thing is realizing that you’re never too old to achieve your dream.