Kids are starting to gear up for a new school year. Stores have special sales on school supplies, book bags, clothing, shoes, and everything else students need.
This is also the time of year to start planning your own education. Regardless of your age, learning something new keeps your mind active, which goes a long way to keep you from growing old. Never subscribe to that old adage – you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
Easier to Learn
In fact, getting older makes it easier in some ways to discover new activities. For example, retirees have several advantages over younger students. They have more time available, more interest in learning for the sake of learning, and have less pressure to get good grades. They can actually learn just for the fun of it. Have you always had an interest in geology or astronomy? Then this may be your chance to finally study it.
Another benefit older students may find is financial. Senior citizens can often audit classes for free, or qualify for reduced fees and tuition, at some four-year universities and community colleges. More than twenty states offer senior discounts, so check out the opportunities in your state at www.fastweb.com.
Students of any age may be able to claim one of these three benefits: 1) the Lifetime Learning tax credit for up to $2,000 a year, 2) the American Opportunity credit for up to $2,500 a year, or 3) deductions for up to $4,000 a year. Make sure you check out the requirements first. You can learn more at www.TaxBenefitsForEducation.info, which is the IRS’s Tax Benefits for Education Information Center.
For anyone needing more assistance with tuition, there are scholarships aimed at returning adults and non-traditional students. In addition to the Fastweb site above, check your local institutions, as well as www.scholarships.com.
Are you interested in whale watching, archeology, or the Galapagos Islands? Two organizations support some 500 Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLI) nationwide for short-term intensive study. Check out Elderhostel (renamed as www.roadscholar.org) and Osher (www.osher.net). They offer something for almost everyone.
Those Who Can, Teach
Another possibility to study economically is to trade your expertise for what you want to learn. For example, if you excelled in the trades, such as electrical wiring, investigate teaching a class on it in exchange for a class in photography. Many schools have limited budgets to hire instructors, but may be more than willing to work out an arrangement. Be creative in your suggestions and you just might find the ideal arrangement.
Many organizations open their conferences to the public, in addition to their members. For example, the Association of Personal Historians (APH) is holding their annual conference in Las Vegas in October, details at www.personalhistorians.org. It is a wonderful way for anyone to learn more about preserving their family stories. Check out other offerings on the internet, at your local library, or in trade magazines.
When you notice someone doing something out of the ordinary, either in person or in the newspaper, ask them how they learned it or discovered it. People enjoy talking about their hobbies and you may find both a new activity and a new friend with whom to share it. You can also find information at your library, bookstore, craft or hobby stores, and on the internet. There is a wealth of knowledge available when you start researching an area.
Other Opportunities to Learn
Many Senior Centers schedule group events for people to play cards, games, chess, crafts, book clubs, etc. Find one or two you like and participate. If you don’t find a group that shares your passion for cribbage, start your own. You can post a notice on a bulletin board, local newspaper, or community calendar.
Watch for the new catalogs arriving from your community college, continuing education provider, park district, and neighborhood associations. If you don’t find anything of interest, call them to ask for future classes on topics of your choice. You’ll never know how they’ll respond if you don’t ask.
What have you always wanted to learn, but never tackled? Discover a whole new world of exciting things to learn, both in school and out. But the important thing is to start today!