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senior graduateSenior Citizens Returning To College: Is This the Real Fountain of Youth?
by Marjorie Dorfman

Senior associates, aka senior citizens returning to college, are fast becoming a mainstay in our nation’s colleges and universities. What has brought about this most interesting trend and what are its repercussions? Read on to find out about this "gray matter encounter of a different kind," whether you have a degree or not.

A little learning is a dangerous thing, but a lot of ignorance is just as bad. ~ Bob Edwards

Pnoce DeLeonPonce DeLeon might well have been traveling entirely in the wrong direction when he set out to find the fountain of youth in 1513 and claimed it for the kingdom of Spain. Some say it lies amid the ghosts in St. Augustine, but if youth be defined (even in part) as a state of mind in search of knowledge, then the entire voyage was mis-directed. The key to youth and its fountain was right smack fat in DeLeon’s own very backyard (or perhaps the backyard of the Spanish king who financed his expedition). More to the point, senior citizens are returning to college in greater numbers every day, making learning a lane that may take many curves, but never ceases throughout our lifetimes.

Retirement may come for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is simply being tired. But old doesn’t necessarily mean tired, and today senior citizens are keeping their minds active and enriching their lives by attending college classes and interacting with another generation as it learns to make its way in the world. The phenomenon more or less started a decade ago when many campuses in the United States and Canada set up Senior Summer School programs. They ranged in length from two to ten weeks and the concept began to catch on, rendering new and unexpected results. The University of Phoenix is a great school that offers a variety of online degree programs.
your college degree
The Prime Timers Program at Georgia Perimeter College offers to residents of Georgia age 62 and older an opportunity to earn an Associates Degree with no tuition charges, except for lab or special course fees, if applicable. The core curriculum emphasizes humanities, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences, but life-long learning opportunities are also provided through courses in music, art, theater and foreign languages. Individual student support services are also available at no cost. It should be noted that some courses may be restricted due to placement or prerequisite requirements.

older woman graduateThe concept reeks of an ancient Oriental one: respect for thy ancestors. Only this phenomenon addresses them while they are still living, breathing, learning and contributing to the world they have lived in and loved for so long. In our throwaway society, knowledge cannot be one of the things left to rot by the wayside. The elderly have amassed a wealth of knowledge that has taken a lifetime to accumulate. Why stop learning just because one can't boogie as fast as one used to or because one might not be able to send out as many graduation invitations as younger grads might?

happy seniorAt the University of Arkansas tuition is free for students over sixty. Whether one wants to earn a degree or just take a class for personal enrichment, the college experience will always prove to be a beneficial one. Although senior citizens must purchase books and supplies that may be needed for their classes, most fees are waived. One still has to provide proof of age. (In this society it either means you are too young to drink and/or smoke, old enough to vote and/or die for your country, or eligible for tuition waivers because you actually are as old as you claim to be.) Go figure!

There are many advantages to returning to school, some of which are totally vicarious to the learning experience itself. For one thing, your children and grandchildren will think you are the coolest thing on the planet since chopped liver. Brain cells will stand at attention like little soldiers, because they are being stimulated instead of just lying there. Think about this too: History takes on a whole new meaning when the events discussed in class are those which you yourself have lived through. Think about that! Expanding your education will also, on a practical level, give you something else to talk about besides aches, pains, Social Security, Medicare and whose obituary you noticed in the daily paper.

senior citizen at collegeSo come on in. The water’s fine. Don’t be afraid to take a dip in the fountain of knowledge. You may learn how to swim even if you never do manage to find the water.

Did you know . . . ?

© 2007 Marjorie Dorfman

We found this great book:

Free Money and Services for Seniors and Their Families

by Laurie Blum

Free Money and Services for Seniors

An invaluable source of over 1000 listings of services available to assist the elderly and their families. Millions of dollars of services are available to help seniors and their caregivers get the top quality care they need for free or at a minimal cost. For example: medical treatment, meals, long-term specialized care, and at-home assistance. The author shows you how to navigate the bureaucratic maze. Contact names, addresses, and phone numbers. Organizations that provide non-financial assistance. Clear step-by-step instructions for assessing your needs, evaluating services, working with caregivers, and making legal arrangements. Smart ways to choose at-home and alternative housing for self-sufficient seniors or those needing special care.