College campuses are typically teeming with 20-somethings who can't walk five steps without putting on a set of earphones or checking their cellphones. But that doesn't mean that a college or university isn't the place for seniors who are interested in furthering their education.
Going back to school for the first, second or third time can be daunting, especially as people grow older. But Barbara Krueger believes that learning, at any age, is very important to keeping your brain and spirit thriving. Krueger, a retiree living in San Diego, started a website in 1982 called seniorresource.com to give seniors information on housing choices, especially as they transitioned out of their own homes into assisted living facilities or residential communities. As the website gained traction, she started adding information on finances and educational benefits for seniors.
"My goal was to educate people online, to (help them) find out what their choices really were," she says.
Although she no longer owns the website, Krueger is still very active in the senior community and has continued her education by taking several local community college courses for her own hobby purposes. She has recently taken courses in photography and sewing, reveling in the community that those classes created.
"It's a neat group of women and at least half are seniors who do very creative things," she says of the sewing class.
Junior colleges, colleges and universities around the country offer specialized classes, curriculum and help for seniors looking to go back to school, often providing registration at reduced pricing. Some states offer seniors to audit classes for free, while others, like Virginia, allow those older than 60 free tuition to a variety of the state's colleges and universities, according to the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
Each state's department of education can provide specific information about what options are offered in that area and can point seniors to colleges that have specific programs or related benefits and tax credits that are available.
If getting back into the classroom with young students is intimidating, there are other options for seniors who want to learn with others their own age. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, started in 2001, provides an opportunity for retired and semi-retired individuals to participate in classes, lectures, special events and social gatherings through colleges across the country. Many of these classes are offered through the extension arms of the colleges and are taken for personal enrichment in a variety of topics ranging from film to fiction to physics.
"There are a lot of people who are interested in staying active and being involved. And you want to associate with people who share your values and interests," says Kruger. "Stay involved, go to lectures."