Never Too Late to Learn: Education in Midlife and BeyondSep 02, 2022
Society often expects people of a certain age (say 60 plus) to start settling, as their lives wind down into the so-called “twilight years.” Get a comfy chair, perhaps a cozy shawl, play bridge with the girls, watch “Wheel of Fortune” and get to bed for 9 PM.
At that point of life, it’s obviously too late to start doing something new, or trying to improve on yourself: after all, what’s the point, right?
Wrong. 100% wrong.
And don’t tell that to Varathaledchumy Shanmuganathan, an 87-year-old grandmother who lives just outside of Toronto, Ontario, in Vaughan.
What did she do? She graduated from one of the top universities in Canada, obtaining a Master of Arts degree in political science from York University. She accomplished this feat just last year in 2021. At 87. And this wasn’t even her first MA, it was her second; the first she got while in her 50s.1
Her shining example makes one thing obviously clear: it is never, ever, too late to learn. And in fact, there are many good reasons to return to academia.
Why return to school midlife and beyond?
Although worries about accruing debt, and the sheer cost of getting a university degree can be deterrents, there are many advantages to pursuing further education: either a first-time degree, or, a second (or third!). Forbes published an insightful article that discussed just that; here are a few reasons they cited 2:
- Seeking a second career later in life. After perhaps spending a considerable length of time in one sector, many adults in midlife may be seeking another, different career. What better way to pursue that by gaining new skills and knowledge through further education? Or, some may have “retired” and still want to be productive and contribute to not just improving society, but themselves.
- Staying ahead of the competition. With new fields of knowledge quickly emerging especially in the realm of technology, having the requisite skills to stay ahead of younger people who have these skills is important for older workers.
- A drive for self-improvement, or fulfilling a goal. Some people may have attempted a degree in life but weren’t able to complete it for whatever reason(s). As time and money allow, many want to finish what they either weren’t able to finish, or weren’t able to start. Others may just want to improve themselves through learning and a new challenge. That’s never a bad thing.
Thinking about continuing your education in midlife? Here’s some advice!
Returning to school past so-called “school age” may be daunting to those in mid-life. But there are some things you can do to help ease the transition, as well as some advice for once you’re back in the throes of schooling 3:
- Check for any discounted tuition rates for mature students. Many universities or colleges offer reduced tuition for older adults and life-long learners, so definitely check that before applying.
- It’s natural (although not terribly polite) that you may get “looks” from students who may be 30, 40 years younger than you when you walk into class. Likely they don’t mean any harm, but just remember who you’re there for: yourself, not them. Be proud of yourself for having the courage to be back in class.
- Brush up on your study skills again. It may have been a long time since you had to force yourself to memorize large chunks of information, or having to study for an exam. Recall, or figure out again, what study methods work best for you.
- Talk to others who have gone back to school, or, maybe go back to school with a friend! Using Amintro, an online community platform specially designed for people 50+, you can meet like-minded individuals who share your passion for learning, or who may also want to “hit the books” again. Or, you can find people who have already done so, and see what worked best for them. A little friendship or guidance along your new journey of learning would be welcome!
No matter what, make sure your heart is in it!
Deciding to return to school after a prolonged absence is no small matter. It will take time, effort, likely money, and of course, dedication. If you’re unsure, talk to someone at the school you’re interested in attending, and get some advice. Talk to family, and of course, friends! Remember you’re not in this alone: people will always be with you along the way. But, once you see your name emblazoned on your diploma or degree after your journey, you’ll hold your head up high and say with gusto: I did it.
- Wilson, Kerrisa, 87-year-old Vaughan woman is oldest student to graduate with master’s from York U, CP24, November 3, 2021.
- Quinn, Laurie, Going Back to College After 50: The New Normal?, Forbes.com, July 1, 2018.
- Goldstein, Alice, The Benefits of Going Back to School After 60, boomerbuyerguides.com, July 9, 2018.
Written and contributed by Charlene Nadalin, Founder of Amintro. Amintro is the online social platform and information hub exclusively for those 50+ interested in expanding their circles of friends and staying involved, informed and connected. Another great thing about Amintro is that it’s FREE and easy to join! To learn more about Amintro, please visit https://amintro.com/
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