Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning

It turns out you actually CAN teach old dogs new tricks. New research in brain science now shows that the adult brain retains impressive powers of “neuroplasticity” – the ability to change structure and function in response to experience. This, coupled with Boomers thirst for new knowledge and skills, has created a growing popularity for lifelong learning. In fact, the number of college students ages 40 to 64 has jumped by almost 20% to nearly 2 million in the past decade. And those numbers are expected to keep growing as more mid-life adults return to school to reinvent themselves, once again.

In an AARP study, 9 out of 10 adults (ages 50 and over) said they wanted to actively seek out learning opportunities to keep current, grow personally, and enjoy the simple pleasure of mastering something new. Research continues to highlight the importance of lifelong learning as a prescription for a longer, healthier life – keeping minds active and people socially engaged. And while the old-fashioned ways of learning something new – reading a book or taking a class – are still popular, many mid-life adults are also embracing online education and utilizing new technologies. Today, mid-life adults who graduated from college 30+ years ago are returning to take classes in everything from languages to modern film, from mastering their investments to creating a Web page, to traveling the world. As mid-life adults return to their studies, learning institutions are accommodating them with flexible schedules, satellite campuses, online courses and the like.

As stewards of lifelong learning, libraries are well positioned to become cornerstone institutions for mid-life adults, productive aging, and the life of the mind IF they can also appeal to them with new, intriguing and flexible approaches to learning.

Did you know?

The adult brain retains an impressive ability to adapt through disciplined training, physical exercise, and active learning – at any age!


Resource:Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes: National Resource CenterNotes:Disseminates information on effective educational programming for older learners, and provides information and connections to the current network of 117 lifelong learning institutes throughout the nation.

Author/Presenter:Manheimer, Ronald J.Resource:“Older Learner’s Journey to an Ageless Society: Lifelong Learning on the Brink of a Crisis, The”Publication:Journal of Transformative Education, 3, no. 3 (2005): 198-220.Publisher:Sage Publications.Notes:Explores the connection between educational programs for mid-life and older learners, and our social ideologies about aging, work, retirement, and the economy. Following the older learner’s path through a 70-year journey starting in the 1950s and ending in a projected year 2020 reveals correlations between theories of aging, rationales for older learner programs, and changes in public policy regarding retirement, social and health care insurance, and other age-based entitlement programs and social policies. If, as is asserted here, we are on the verge of an age-irrelevant society, then these lifelong learning programs hover on the brink of a crisis that may or may not be averted.

Author/Presenter:Sadler, William A.Resource:“Changing Life Options: Uncovering the Riches of the Third Age”Publication:The LLI Review (Spring 2006).Publisher:Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.Notes:Discusses the new period emerging in the middle of life – The Third Age – which provides unexpected opportunities and challenges for individuals, society, and Lifelong Learning programs. The author reports on significant findings from 20 years of research, using longitudinal studies, of people who have been creatively redesigning their lives in the Third Age, making it an era of fulfillment.