Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lifelong Learning Thursday

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret of Making the Most of Your After 50 Years will share the benefits of Lifelong Learning on Thursdays.

The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years.

Lifelong Learning in Your Later Years… 
A Health Club for Your Mind, Body, and Spirit!

Have you ever wondered how lifelong learning got started?

Well, I’m sure we all agree that education has always played an important role in helping shape our personal destinies. Success in many fields is measured by how much time we spent “hitting the books.”

But until recently, formal education has been the domain of youth. Certainly there are some who stay in school much longer, pursuing advanced degrees, but overall, by the age of 22, many adults end their educational journeys.

Not everyone, however, agrees with this ideology. As far back as 1854, Henry David Thoreau was arguing for a different philosophy when he wrote:

“It is time that we had uncommon schools…that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. It is time that villages were universities and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, with leisure–if they are, indeed, so well off–to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives.”

Then, in the late 1800s, there was an attempt to bring closer attention to the idea of lifelong learning. The Chautauqua Movement, which was known as “colleges for one’s home,” brought individual study to adults of all ages throughout the United States. Unfortunately, this movement’s initial momentum soon faded away and it would be some time before lifelong learning actually established a true foothold in the granite of educational philosophy.

Until that happened, the best options available to mature adults were to either return to school in pursuit of a degree or to simply audit a class. Finally, in 1962, with the development of the very first lifelong learning program for older adults (the Institute for Retired Professionals at the New School University in New York City) educational philosophy began to change; people once again began looking at ways they could maintain a healthy mind long after traditionalists spoke of ceasing active learning.

Later-life learning gained momentum. Institutes devoted to enriching mature adults through a wide variety of courses, adventures, and community service options began opening. And people began to notice.

So much so, in fact, that learning later is now no longer limited to just the United States. For instance, France’s own initiatives began in 1972. Shortly thereafter, the International Association of Universities of the Third Age (U3As & UTAs) was established. The idea quickly spread through Europe, spurring countries like Belgium, Switzerland, and Britain to begin their own organizations devoted to later-life learning. Since then, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have also reaped great benefits from the establishment of lifelong learning programs. And, as you read this, Japan, Mexico, China and other countries are getting on board as well. We will discuss the global nature of later-life learning programs in a future blog.

Today, you can find lifelong learning opportunities at colleges and universities, at senior centers and adult communities, in libraries, churches, and in shopping places and public spaces. The concept of later-life learning is growing by leaps and bounds as people age and realize how much more enriched their lives will be with the added value of learning later.


Louis L’Amour said, “Knowledge is like money: to be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.” And that’s exactly what lifelong learning has done in its spread around the world. In big countries and small, lifelong learning, especially for older adults, is taking hold and being trumpeted as one of the most important ways to stay connected to, and give back to society; to remain useful and productive no matter what your age. What a great opportunity for those of us reaching our Third Age.

For more information on Learning Later, Living Greater visit

You can purchase Learning Later, Living Greater at

Till Next Time…

Nancy Merz Nordstrom is Director of the Lifelong Learning Department at Computer School for Seniors (

No comments: