Tuesday, 21 February 2012

You’re Retired, Now What?

Building off my previous post entitled “Boomers are Getting Schooled” which talked about why some active boomers are not settling into retirement and their walkers right away, I’d like to talk about some of the preferences that these adults have when considering an active and engaging lifestyle.  And it is not all about travel and keeping oneself entertained while fighting off society’s push to put you on the bench.  Older adults are changing the face of adult education as they go back to school and as they seek to be engaged.  And just as any confident adult, these stubborn strong-willed boomers know what they want and they are not about to settle.

To Recap: What Motivates Boomers

Borrowing from another entry, I will quickly recap the motivation that most people have to pursuing further education within their industry, beyond their career or even into their retirement years and what is probably (in my limited perspective at least) going through their heads.

  • Burnout – Another stress filled day at work... and I get to do the same tomorrow. Yay?
  • Excess & Affluence – Am I really putting all that I have to good use?
  • Sensory Overload – I need to take a step back and get some perspective.
  • Depression & Trauma – I don’t want to die without ever having experienced...
  • “Danger Age” – When did I get old and how do I make it stop?
  • Freedom from Responsibilities – The kids have moved out; I can finally have a life.
  • Turning Fifty – My life is half over and what have I got to show for it?
  •  Retirement – I’ve got way too much time on my hands.

So what are these people motivated to do?  Well, I’ve already answered that a few times but just to be clear: they want to do something, anything that will convince themselves and the people around them that they are not yet dead in the ground.  They want to learn.  They want to try something new.  And it just can’t be any ol’ “something”.  It has to be exciting and something they never would have had the courage to try before.  And it had better be stimulating. 

Facts about Lifelong Learners: Their Preferences

Some adults actually choose to literally go back to school in order to learn and branch out.  Of the 16 million college students in Canada, over half a million of these students are over the age of 50 (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006). For you younger generations, that means that for every 32 students in your college business class, there is probably going to be one “older” person sitting at the front asking a lot of questions.  (I’d highly recommend sitting next to this person as they probably study the most, take impeccable notes, and being associated with them will automatically put you in your professor’s “good” book). 

And all this does not even take into consideration the number of lifelong learners who are enrolled in non-credit and other lifelong learning courses sponsored by adult education programs.
Older students going back to school in pursuit of lifelong learning typically have a preference for:

  • community or junior colleges, where 50 percent attend, because of the convenience and outreach programs
  • intergenerational classes, where they can learn from younger students and share their knowledge with them
  • avoiding programs targeted at senior citizens and older adults. They prefer lifelong learners or third generation learners, because it implies continual learning
  • classes offered on main campus or branch campuses. However, there is an increasing number who prefer online courses because they are comfortable with technology
  • programs such as health services, teacher education, fine arts/humanities, human service and counselling, and entrepreneurship. They also enrol in both credit and non-credit continuing education courses.
Courtesy of David R. Wetzel. [2005] Why Older Adults are Going Back to School. Continuing Education Suite 101. http://david-r-wetzel.suite101.com/why-older-adults-are-going-back-to-school-a266406

Your Options

Going back to school is not the only way that lifelong learners can feel more engaged with life.  The 50+ crowd makes up a good percentage of the global population (you boomers are all advertisers talk about these days).  So it makes sense that in the past decade or so, thousands of programs have sprung up specifically tailored to make active retirees feel like they are still on the ‘up and up’ and haven’t been put on that aforementioned bench or back burner or whatever you want to call it.  Below is a list of some of the more popular options and links to programs that you might consider looking into as they all cater to mature demographics.

Go Back to School


Work Part-Time


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