Lifelong Learning

The benefits of remaining intellectually engaged as people grow older is an area of active investigation by neuroscientists and physicians. "Engagement" is defined as a behavior that involves a high level of both intellectual and social function, and there is growing evidence based on longitudinal studies that leading an intellectually stimulating life seems to foster cognitive vitality. It is also well established that lifelong learning has a protective effect with respect to dementia.

Colleges, Universities, and Libraries

A good place to start looking for courses and adult education classes is your local college, university, or public library.

  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the U.S. Department of Education, helps locate the lifelong learning resources nearest you. You can search the NCES database by city, type of institution (public and private higher education institutions and libraries) or look up all institutions within 50 miles of your Zip Code.
  • The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI) is a network of 101 university and college programs that are designed for older students. Each institute reflects the culture of its own university and its learning community. To see if there is one in your community, visit the Web site. Click on "Find an OLLI Near You," then click on your state.

Travel and Other Learning Communities

  • The Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN), 800-454-5768 toll free or 877-426-8506 toll free, coordinates more than 400 programs in the U.S. and Canada. This includes short-term educational travel opportunities for adults 55 and over. To receive a free catalog, call or visit the Web site.
  • Senior Net is a national, nonprofit organization that offers older adults both local classes and online, self-paced instruction in computers and the Internet. In many states, on-site courses for elders 50 and older provide a low-cost, friendly introduction to computers as well as topics such as genealogy, graphics, personal financial management, and tax preparation. Senior Net sites offer open lab time, user groups, workshops, and social activities.

Additional Learning Opportunities

To learn about other opportunities for lifelong learning, check with your local Council on Aging (COA) or senior center. Some offer their own classes; others partner with local schools and colleges. Some faith-based institutions offer adult education programs, tours, and day trips. Many museums offer free tours and lecture programs, as well as discounted admission for seniors. For a complete list of museums, go to the Web site of Museumlink and click on "U.S. Museums by State."

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