LEARNING LATER, LIVING GREATER:
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!
Nothing speaks more to the importance of something than validation from outside sources. And validation of lifelong learning programs has grown dramatically, especially in the last 20 years. Here are just a few of the many ways these programs are being supported, both in this country and abroad.
· In 1997, the Minnesota Humanities Commission organized the Minnesota Learning in Retirement Network (LIRN), a state-wide association of university and community-based senior learning organizations. The aim of the Humanities Commission’s Learning in Retirement Network is to promote older adult learning in the humanities. Through the humanities, LIRN members study enduring ideas, reflect on experience, analyze important issues, and contribute to the educational well-being of the communities. Member organizations are all receiving LIRN grants from the Humanities Commission.
· The Bernard Osher Foundation is a charitable foundation established in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a businessman and community leader. In early 2001, the Foundation provided a large multi-million dollar grant to the University of Southern Maine, which had a successful “Senior College” in operation. This endowment gift provided multiple opportunities for the University to enlarge and improve the excellent program it was already offering. With the gift, the Senior College at USM changed its name to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, becoming the first in a network of more than 120 Osher institutes nationwide.
· Along with this funding, the State of Maine legislature puts money into the budget of the University of Southern Maine each year to "support a Senior College initiative" for older adults all across the state. There are now fifteen Senior Colleges (the Maine name for lifelong learning institutes) throughout the State.
· In the spring of 1992, the California State Legislature passed a resolution to support learning in retirement. Its purpose was to give status to groups wishing to establish lifelong learning programs on campus sites of state-supported institutions, and to provide impetus to the movement.
· As further proof of the validity of creative lifelong learning, in 1999, the largest documented study on aging in the USA, Successful Aging, concluded that involvement in social, recreational and creative activities is a key factor in successful aging.
· The European Parliament declared 1996 the “Year of Lifelong Learning,” and thirteen countries developed lifelong learning policy initiatives. The need for social capital, along with rapidly advancing technology has brought lifelong learning to the attention of just about everyone in Europe.
· The United Kingdom sponsors an annual Learning in Later Life Campaign and gives awards for events that celebrate older learning.
· Lifelong learning has become an important part of the new social goal of the EU, as defined at the Lisbon summit in March, 2000–“to make the European Union the world’s most dynamic and competitive area, based on innovation and knowledge, able to boost economic growth levels with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” To this end, AGE, the European Older People’s Platform, was recently established to voice the interests of older and retired people with the EU institutions. Lifelong learning is one of the topics AGE will be addressing.
· In China, the lifelong learning movement entered the country in the 1980s and today China has the largest number of Universities of the Third Age (U3As), more than 19,000, with almost 2 million members. Universities for the Aged (UAs) is another movement in China with almost 3 million citizens taking classes at special schools or universities throughout the country. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese governments have regarded education as important for helping the more than 100 million older Chinese to adapt to social change. This emphasis on education has led to a very strong lifelong learning movement for older adults in China.
· The lifelong learning movement in Japan is still rather new, but thanks to recent legislation, large numbers of older Japanese adults now take classes in “elderly colleges.”
· Lifelong learning for older adults has spread around the world with programs in almost every country. Now that’s validation!
Charles W. Eliot, the famous Harvard University president from the last century has said, “It has been too much the custom to think of education as an affair of youth…but it really should be the work of the whole life.” The global validation we have just discussed proves his words were correct. Don’t you want to be part of it?
For more information on Learning Later, Living Greater visit www.learninglater.com
You can purchase Learning Later, Living Greater at www.amazon.com
Till Next Time…
Nancy Merz Nordstrom is Director of the Lifelong Learning Department at Computer School for Seniors (www.cs4seniors.com)