Expand knowledge and skills in retirement: go back to school

in Lifestyle

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Retirement sounds like an incredible lifestyle on the surface. Days on end with no obligations or major concerns, not having to fight traffic or punch a clock and being able to sleep in whenever you want certainly sounds wonderful. But what happens after you’ve been retired for a while?

With many Canadians facing 10 or 20 years – or even more – in “retirement,” the same old, same old can become terribly boring terribly fast. So, how can a retiree combat boredom and stay on top of his or her game? For many, the answer lies in broadening horizons during retirement. Going back to school can be fun as well as a great way to keep the mind razor-sharp. It can also pose a few obstacles, too.

The obstacles you might face

Going back to school in your later years can present challenges, but most of these are easily overcome. Some of the common stumbling blocks include:

  • Fear. It can be intimidating to head back to university or college later in life and face sitting in a classroom full of teens and 20-somethings. The challenge of making the decision and enrolling can be daunting.
  • Entry requirements. If you plan to seek a degree or add to your existing education, you might find yourself facing the need to take several compulsory courses to qualify for or meet basic entry requirements.
  • Lacking study skills. You may have been a perfect student in your younger years, but after decades out of class, you might find your study skills are a bit rusty.
  • Finances.Going back to school can be a costly venture. Coming up with the money to pay for a program isn’t always an easy proposition.
  • Deciding what to study. If attending college or university is what you have in mind, you’ll have to decide on a major. If simply attending community classes is your choice, you’ll likely have an easier time.

Anyone who decides to go back to school after a time away faces some challenges. Having a good idea of what to expect can help immensely.

Overcoming and conquering

There are ways you can overcome every single obstacle that might present itself. The best ways to do so include:

  • Learning to cope. So what if your hair is grey and your face has a wrinkle or two? You have as much right to learn as a 20-year-old. Don’t let stereotypes about older adults deter you. You won’t be sorry and chances are you’ll find that younger classmates who looked askance at you on day one are soon seeking your advice and guidance.
  • Distance education is another alternative. Most universities offer distance programs for students, often via the Internet. This is especially convenient for people living in small centres with no easy access to a major educational institute and those with mobility issues and/or time constraints.Distance education opens up a world of possibilities and makes it possible to take courses from any institution anywhere, wherever you are, as long as you have access to the Internet.
  • Biting the bullet. If you have it in your heart of hearts to earn a master’s degree in retirement, don’t let anything stop you. Should you be faced with new prerequisite classes, grit your teeth and tackle them. Contact guidance people and course supervisors for first-hand information about the program or course that interests you and find out what’s really necessary.
  • Brushing up on skills. If it’s been 30 or 40 years since you’ve set foot on a high school or university campus, chances are you’re going to have to brush up on how to study. Take it slowly and don’t worry if you aren’t quite as fast as everyone around you. Your younger counterparts are used to this and besides, you’ll get it!
  • Start saving. If paying for classes is an issue, start cutting corners in your personal budget. Take only one or two classes at a time to keep expenses in check. It’s also possible that you might qualify for a student grant, scholarship, or loan. Explore your options.
  • Choose that which inspires.Selecting a course of study can be difficult. Remember, you’re not necessarily pursuing a degree to create a career. Go for an area of study that inspires you.

Identify the obstacles and take steps to overcome them. If you truly desire to learn and flourish in retirement, you’ll find a way.

Tips and tricks for making the most of retirement learning

If you’ve decided to head back to class, good for you! To make the most of the experience, there are things you can do to prepare, including:

  • Take computer courses. Many colleges and universities are dependent on computers. As a student, you’ll likely have to know how to use one. If you don’t already know, take classes in advance to learn how. This can help you get your feet wet in going back to class, too.
  • Research online.The Internet now makes it easy to research programs, courses and other offerings. Go online and see what’s available.
  • Start out small. If you’re not 100% certain of your desire to take classes at an advanced level, try some adult learning courses at a local school or community centre. Even considering sitting in or auditing university classes for a time.

Learning in retirement is an incredibly rewarding way to broaden horizons and stay active. There’s no reason to avoid this potentially life-altering experience. Identify your obstacles and tackle them one by one. You’ll be glad you did!

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