Going Back To College At The Age Of 61

Life’s journey is one of many pathways.  For me, the education road has always been one I have traveled.  At times learning has been formal such as getting a degree or at other times informal such as spending time listening to a TED talk. 

There is no expiration date on learning.  Because we are all living longer, the opportunity to pick up a new language, a new skill, or seek a new experience is ever present.  Learning has changed much since I was an undergraduate in college.  The need to be physically present in a classroom is no longer required and opportunities can range from watching a YouTube video to taking an online credit program at a university.  Online education in particular opens doors to those who might struggle with accessibly or mobility limitations.

The fall course I am taking just opened this week.  I use the word “open” because in the distance learning world, open is a better description than starting. To open the course means that there is accessibility through the platform being used such as Blackboard or Canvas.  The course I am taking looks at the relationship between meaning and work.  It is part of a graduate certificate program I’m enrolled in.  The class is large: about 25, but I’ve “worked” with several students in this class in other courses.  The notion of working with them is different in traditional classes in that our relationships have been strictly online.  But one can learn much about someone through online discussions particularly in classes that require personal reflections.   One of our first assignments is to write up our life story in a few paragraphs.  Writing a life story when you are 61 is a bit different than at 21!  Can I use 6-point font?

Taking classes at 61 does demand upping one’s tech skills.   Fortunately, I’ve developed keen computer skills over the years.  I’m familiar with the nuances of Blackboard and other platforms.  And my typing skills are good.  There is some irony in that a typing class I took in high school in the 1970s had been the most beneficial to my educational success.  Computers still use QWERTY (you can look that up!).  My daughter at 21 and I at 61 have one thing in common: we both can type at incredible speed.

I think everyone who takes classes at my age needs to ascribe to the aphorism of not letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Many in my generation valued educational excellence and getting “As” was the way we measured success. This may of came from the competitive world we were raised in.  Right now, just learning is the goal for me: the grade is not the point of it all.  

One aspect of the class that I think is worthwhile is being in a course with those who are much younger.   There is a growth in “elder” focuses classes and courses – some at senior centers or run by senior hostels –  and I think there is value in that for some.  But I’d rather be in a space with those just starting their journeys.  Their enthusiasm and idealism inspires me.  And maybe my own journey, and I might suggest modestly, my wisdom, can offer then something. Now, back to class.

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