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It would be a sad world if learning was something we only did when we were young.

But learning doesn’t end with a high school or college diploma, or even a Ph.D. And it isn’t confined to classrooms. Learning enriches our lives at every stage as we age, fueling our imaginations and passions.
Across the nation, communities and institutions are embracing opportunities for people of all ages to stimulate their minds, acquire the skills and knowledge needed to transition to a new career, and pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees, among other options. The excellent Road Scholar program and local lifelong learning institutes not only provide intellectual stimulation, but also valuable social engagement.

Education programs that serve older adults may need financial support for start-up costs, facilities, staff, and supplies, or to help with replication of an existing program in a new community. There are many models of lifelong learning programs across the country. Below are a few programs that serve older learners. Contact them and learn about what’s going on in your own community.

Oasis Institute, founded in 1982, is a national, non-profit educational organization that is active in 40 cities and reaches more than 50,000 individuals each year.Oasis partners with health providers, corporations, senior centers, community organizations, libraries, universities and colleges, senior living organizations, and more for programs that promote lifelong learning, active lifestyles, and volunteer engagement.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, supported by the Bernard Osher Foundation, supports 120 lifelong learning programs on university and college campuses across the country, with at least one grantee in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Foundation also supports a National Resource Center for Osher Institutes which is located at Northwestern University. Non-credit educational programs are specifically developed for adults 50+.

The American Council on Education’s (ACE) Center for Education Attainment and Innovation promotes adult learner programs in higher education. It offers programs, services, tools, and research to help bridge the gaps in serving diverse learners of all ages, alleviating workforce shortages, and meeting professional education demands in order to support access to, and success in, postsecondary education.

The Winter Park Health Foundation has made recent grants to the Alzheimer’s Association-Central and North Florida Chapter and Rollins College to help create environments that stimulate lifelong learning. BrainUP! is a two-year program designed to increase community awareness and educate people of all ages on ways to live a brain-healthy lifestyle and to encourage them to do so. A grant to Rollins College helped launch a series of Senior Enrichment Courses, offering an eclectic selection of non-credit classes to adults age 50+. The classes, taught by Rollins faculty and staff, meet once weekly for four weeks and are offered in the fall, spring, and summer.

Road Scholar provides educational travel and study programs in 150 countries and all 50 states, serving more than 100,000 participants per year.

Senior Net is a nonprofit organization offering computer and internet education for older adults. It has Learning Centers in a variety of locations across the United States, including senior centers, community centers, public libraries, schools and colleges, and clinics and hospitals. Each center has from six to 20 computers.

What to fund

  • Learning programs specifically for older people at schools, community centers, colleges, and universities
  • GED programs for older adults
  • English as a Second Language for older adults
  • Computer technology programs for older adults
  • Younger students teaching older adults, especially in technology and computers
  • Scholarships to allow older learners with lower incomes to participate in educational programs
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