Happy Aging is a unique series focused on how to help you age well. These stories have been created in cooperation with AARP and Word In Black.

The Internet has revolutionized how we learn. The curious-minded can participate in massive online open courses (MOOCS) led by instructors across the world at any time. Eager to know about the origins of astrophysics, for example? Enroll in a MOOC. If you have a professional dream or just want to refresh your skills, then you might consider taking classes for a certificate or diploma. There’s something unique about being in a physical classroom with peers and challenging concepts, too. 

Rose Hawkins had a successful career at United Technologies Corporation before retiring. 

“I started as a file clerk, and when I left 30 years later, I was their small business liaison officer,” she says. While with the company, Hawkins built upon her high school diploma with specialized courses in law and business. Now, age 82, the self-described “snow bird” takes classes at her local Shepherd’s Center in Florida. 

“I take jewelry class. I take, ‘How to use my iPhone.’ I took some elder law classes. I take what they call ‘zen tango.’ It’s an art class.”

Hawkins appreciates staying mentally and physically active.  

“Sometimes we think we get to a certain age and we don’t have the capability of learning, but that’s not true. You’re making new friends. You’re doing things that you were unable to do when you were retiring or being a working mother and wife. Whenever you’re in a learning curve, you kind of push yourself, but if you can do it as long as possible, that’s the best.”

Many cities offer free opportunities for continuing education – ranging from classes at local centers to degree programs. In Seattle, Washington, for example, seniors can audit courses at the community colleges for a small fee. New York University offers free tuition for medical students. Public colleges in Atlanta, Georgia offer tuition for free for seniors over age 62

Finances aside, how you experience returning education may look completely different from your peers. Consider the type of program that best fits your needs. Do you desire a flexible schedule? If you’re pursuing a specific job, then what courses will you need to take?

Many people have decided to attend school beyond the traditional age. Here are some affirmations from a few of them:

There will be challenging circumstances that will test your patience, determination, and faith. Having a good understanding of why you chose this career will keep you focused during these times of despair and will allow you to persevere through the difficulties that are sure to occur.

Carl Allamby

“If you have the desire and the ability to learn more, at any age, do it. The one thing that no one can take from you is your education/knowledge once you have learned it.” – Robert Mentzer

“Just don’t give up. I mean if you have the opportunity, take that opportunity, and you never know. A lot of us get sidetracked or whatever, but go back. Don’t give up.” – Joyce DeFauw

For more information about lifelong learning, peruse through AARP’s guide