Wednesday, August 26, 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!

Last week we began to discuss programs known as lifelong learning institutes. Now, let’s take a look at the early history of these programs.

For years, colleges and universities have offered continuing education programs for adults in their local communities. Along with these types of programs, adult education classes are also offered in most local high schools and some libraries. Adults of all ages take advantage of these low-cost opportunities, and they continue to be wonderful resources for many. The types of programs we are going to talk about now, however, are different from these well-known programs.

Back in 1962 a group of retired educators got together to discuss ways to stay intellectually challenged beyond what continuing education courses offered. They gathered at the New School for Social Research (now called the New School University) in New York City and conceived of a program run by and for older adults, offering a college-level curriculum.

The New School enthusiastically welcomed the older adults onto their Greenwich Village campus under the name of The Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP). The IRP is still going strong today, some 47 years later. In the words of its current director, Michael Markowitz,

Being part of a university with an historic mission of inclusiveness helped make the IRP so successful." Today, the program is viewed as a vital member of the diverse campus population. IRP students take part in most university events open to degree students.

Between the start of this incredibly successful program in 1962 and the mid 1980s, the “learning in retirement” movement as it came to be known, grew slowly with approximately 50 more institutes formed at such institutions such as Harvard, Syracuse University, Duke and UCLA, among others. These early programs often relied on the founders at the IRP to help get them started.

By the mid-1980s, word was beginning to spread about this wonderful opportunity for older adults. The early visionaries of the learning in retirement movement were becoming overwhelmed with requests for help to start new programs. Clearly some kind of national mechanism to coordinate the start-up of new programs needed to be established.

Next week – Enter Elderhostel…


In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “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.” Even back in 1854, when these prophetic words were uttered, the value of continuing to learn into our later years was recognized by forward-thinking individuals.

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 (

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post--I love this blog!