Class of Now: Reasons to Go Back to School

Are you doing your brain an injustice? As we get older, we become set in our ways and more sedentary. We gravitate to easy, comfortable grooves in our daily life. This also tends to lead us to loneliness and isolation. The result is a decline in both social interactions as well as decreased mental stimulation. These are two of three components essential to brain health (physical exercise, cognitive exercise, and social engagement). This cognitive decline significantly increases the risk of dementia.

One way to combat these brain impacts is through senior education programs. This might entail single classes for senior citizens or even a full series of courses on a topic of interest for senior citizens.

Many of us think of our school days fondly, often for reasons that have little to do with our classroom experience. We think of football games, band concerts, drama productions, dances, or parties. However, these events and occasions have something in common with the mere classroom time we seem to forget: they all brought us together with our fellow students. Thus such senior education programs can provide a way to fight social isolation.

These memories of people coming together can remind us of a good reason to return our education. Often, the process of growing older can isolate us from each other. As our friends pursue their own destinies, we can lose touch and find ourselves ultimately lacking the human contact we need to survive. Taking classes for senior citizens, particularly at local colleges, can remedy that problem, bringing us into respectful interaction with all sorts of interesting people. In this way, going back to school—the sheer act of going—can invigorate a life by coming together with like-minded others.

Did you know that taking a class in just about any subject can improve your cognitive abilities, rejuvenate your memory, and have fun all at the same time? Recent scientific studies clearly show that senior citizens who stay mentally active enjoy all of these rewards.

Senior education in the classroom

Challenging our brains to grow new cells can take place at any age. For that matter, we can build new connections which help our problem-solving abilities as well as memory. The more it's used, the better the brain grows and does.

Don't forget to ask your tax advisor about Uncle Sam's $10,000 lifetime senior citizen deduction for higher education! See updated information from the IRS here.

Each state operates a postsecondary education system that consists of a network of community colleges and senior universities. Some offer discounted or free educational opportunities for senior education programs. For example, Virginians age 60 and older may take courses without paying tuition at its public colleges and universities. However, be sure and discuss your needs and goals and classes for senior citizens with the admissions department of the institution you desire to attend.

Many of us think of our school days fondly, often for reasons that have little to do with our classroom experience. We think of football games, band concerts, drama productions, dances, or parties. However, these events and occasions have something in common with the mere classroom time we seem to forget: they all brought us together with our fellow students.

These memories of people coming together can remind us of a good reason to return our education. Often, the process of growing older can isolate us from each other. As our friends pursue their own destinies, we can lose touch and find ourselves ultimately lacking the human contact we need to survive. Taking classes, particularly at local community colleges, can remedy that problem, bringing us into respectful interaction with all sorts of interesting people. In this way, going back to school—the sheer act of going—can invigorate a life by coming together with like-minded others.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) is a non-profit organization created to meet the needs of individuals 50 years of age and older who have a love of learning and wish to pursue it with other like-minded individuals.OLLI offers a wide variety of classes—philosophy, history, art, music, current events, political issues, religion, science, literature, and languages.

The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 1977 by Bernard Osher, a respected businessman and community leader. The Foundation seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. The Foundation provides post-secondary scholarship funding to colleges and universities across the nation, with particular attention to reentry students. It also supports the OLLI, which operates on the campuses of 120+ institutions of higher education from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska, and has a National Resource Center at Northwestern University.

STATE by STATE Seniors' Education Programs

Available opportunities are generally broken down by age and number of credits allowed each year at the waived or reduced tuition rates. Many states offer these rate reductions "by institution." That is to say in some states each community college, state college, or university will have unique, if somewhat similar senior citizen tuition waiver policies, so you need to check in your area. If they are outside your area, but in a state where you have family and friends who could use such a tremendous tool for staying active, engaged, and healthy be sure and let your family members and friends in these locations know about the opportunity.

Both 4-year Colleges/Universities and Community Colleges are included in our directory. Community colleges (also known as junior colleges, technical colleges, two-year colleges, city colleges) are primarily two-year public institutions providing higher education and lower-level tertiary education, granting certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. Many also offer continuing and adult education. Some students transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor's degree. Many community colleges also offer remedial education, GEDs, high school degrees, technical degrees, and certificates.

Before the 1970s, community colleges were more commonly referred to as junior colleges. Today the term "junior college" generally describes private and "community college" public-funded, two-year institutions. Such community colleges are typically operated within special districts and supported by local tax revenue. Some community college function as a sister institution within a statewide higher education system.

In 2012–2013, 7.7 million people attended U.S. community colleges, with about 3.1 million students enrolled full-time, and about 4.6 million students enrolled part-time. Such schools operate under a policy of "open admission." Hence, anyone with a high school diploma or GED may attend, regardless of prior academic status or college entrance exam scores. This open admission policy results in a wide range of students attending community college classes. Students range in age from teenagers in high school taking courses under a concurrent, or dual, enrollment policy (which allows both high school and college credits to be earned simultaneously) to working adults taking classes at night to complete a degree or gain additional skills in their field to students who enroll to pursue lifelong interests