Is Back To School Still Relevant?

Rose 87 year old student

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Going Back to School

For most of us, our senior citizen years are a time to relax, maybe pursue a hobby, travel or just relax and let life go by. But, for many, retirement isn’t just a time to lay the goals of life down. It is a time to look back over life at the unfinished challenges and then go back and finish them. And for many, an unfinished goal in life is to go back and get that degree.

Whether it is finally graduating from high school, finishing your bachelor’s degree or starting and finishing a masters or PHD, it’s a big challenge to go back to the classroom and get that certificate, especially when you do that as a senior citizen.

So why do we do it? This may be a question your children ask when they see you going after such an ambitious goal so late in life.

Lunch Lady
Lunch Lady

But when you think about it, we as senior citizens have a right to be a bit offended by the question. Where is it written that we are denied the right to better ourselves just because we are in the later years of life? Implicit in the question is the implication of, “What is the point of you getting a degree since you are not going to do anyting productive in retirement and you are so close to death?”

The last thing we as senior citizens want is to be seen as people who are just sitting around waiting to die. Many a senior citizen has started an entirely new career and accomplished great things after 50. With the advances in medical science today, it’s perfectly logical that you could live 20-30 years or more “in retirement”. That is plenty of time to accomplish great things. And starting out this era of life with a good education makes just as much sense as a youth doing so as they start out on their first career.



This is not to say that going back to school is going to be easy. If finishing your high school degree is the goal, you are going into an alien world and one that was probably pretty hostile the first time you were there. Your presence in the high school or college classroom is going to be the source of some humor and you might take some teasing for being there.

But those same kids will come to admire what you are doing and enjoy having “grandpa” in class with them each day. On top of the social situation you may create in a high school or college classroom, school is a challenge. You will have to get used to being in the classroom and listening to lectures, reading textbooks, taking notes, doing papers and taking exams all over again. If you go after an advanced degree and take several classes, you will be a very busy senior citizen just keeping up with your studies.

But there are some joys you can expect from going after an advanced degree. College life and being on a college campus each day is itself a very stimulating environment. And you may find yourself at a few pep rallies and enjoying campus life just like the other students. Being with young people each day can be energizing and you may find yourself looking and acting as much like the youth you “hang out with” as you do your fellow senior citizens.

But the greatest benefit of getting that advanced degree is the pride or accomplishment you will get. If you are finishing your high school or bachelor’s degree, it no doubt nagged you all your life that this was something that you started and didn’t finish. So by going back and finishing it, you close that door and take away the power of that nagging voice.

Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with academic life. Learning is tremendously addictive and you may wish to go on for yet more studies in fields of learning that have always fascinated you. Nobody will turn away your tuition dollars if you just want to be in college for the pure joy of learning. And you will be an inspiration to your fellow students when they see you succeed and they tell themselves, “If Grandpa over there can do it, so can I.”

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