Go Back to School – Tuesday Tip – September 4, 2018

For some of us, the first week of September inevitably turns our thoughts to going back to school.  If you’re like me, shorter days and the promise of turning leaves and crisper air to come conjures up thoughts of blank notebooks, new pens and pencils, and pristine books full of new things to learn.

Learning in retirement is one of the keys to cognitive health and successful aging and, fortunately, resources to support learning in retirement are abundant in 2018 America.  Here are three ways to get started:

Join a Lifelong Learning Institute

Join a Lifelong Learning Institute:  There are more than 400 Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs) in the United States and Canada so chances are there’s one near you.  At an LLI experts—often retired professors—and members with a passionate avocation lead classes and outings on subjects ranging from Middle Eastern politics and Shakespeare’s plays to yoga and birthwatching.  LLIs are a great bargain and a great way to blend socializing with learning.  I wrote about LLIs in an earlier Tuesday Tip and you can read that blog post here.

Watch an Online Lecture Series

Watch an online lecture series:  In our digital world there are abundant fee and free resources for learning in retirement.  The Great Courses company has hundreds of multi-lecture courses available in both audio and video formats, ranging in cost from less than $50 to well over $200.  If you’re looking for free lectures, however, a great place to start is at on a website called Open Culture.  Open Culture has a fascinating blog with new content daily as well as links to 1,300 free online courses, 1,000+ MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), 1,150 free movies, 1,500 free audio and ebooks, and much more.

“Borrow” College Syllabuses.

“Borrow” college syllabuses:  If you want to dive deeply into a specific subject of your interest, sharpen up your Googling skills and dig into the world of college syllabuses posted online.  A good college syllabus will give you lists of books and articles you might never find on Amazon or with a more general internet search. Let’s pick a subject at random and see what pops up…  Since I’m writing this on Labor Day, how about: Women in the Workforce and Labor Movement. A straightforward internet search brought me to two syllabuses (click on the links to reach the syllabuses):  A course at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro called “Gender and History:  U.S. Women’s Labor History,” and a course at New York University called “Women and Men in the Workplace.”  With some creative searching you can find syllabuses on almost any subject imaginable.

Happy September!  Happy lifelong learning!     

(More Tuesday Tips here.)

5 Women Who Reinvented Themselves

The Retirement Whisperer believes retirement is a time for reinvention and new beginnings.  To celebrate Women’s History Month, here are the stories of five inspiring women who reached new heights later in life in the arts, exploration, athletics, business and education.

The Writer

Harriet Doerr

Harriet Doerr published her first novel when she was 73.  That novel, “Stones for Ibarra,” won the American Book Award for first fiction, and was described as a “perfect book” by the author Alice Adams.  Born in 1910, Ms. Doerr dropped out of college to marry and raise a family, returning to college in 1975 and gaining entrance to Stanford University’s creative writing program.  According to her obituary in the New York Times, “other students resented her presence, until she read her first piece aloud.”  Harriet Doerr went on to publish another novel (at age 83) and a collection of essays.  She died in 2002 at age 92.

The Swimmer

Katherine Pelton took up competitive swimming at age 70 and, ten years later, shattered Masters swimming records for the 80-84 age division.  Her favorite stroke was the technically demanding butterfly, where she held records for 50 yards, 100 yards, and 200 yards. Ms. Pelton swam more than 2,000 yards every day, and died in 1992 at age 87.

The Explorer

Barbara Hillary

After surviving lung cancer at 67 and retiring from nursing, Barbara Hillary became interested in traveling to the North and South Poles.  She raised $25,000 to fund her expeditions and, in 2007 at age 76, became the first African American women to stand on the North Pole, four years later achieving the same first at the South Pole.

The Entrepreneur

Stephanie King at age 62 founded a website to sell crafts and other products created by female artisans around the world.  After a corporate career, Ms. King grew interested in issues of social justice and saw that women in poorer countries around the world needed financial independence to escape trafficking, arranged marriages, and other “subhuman conditions.”  Her business sourced products from Afghanistan, Guatemala, Nepal, Ethiopia and other parts of the world.

The Scholar

Nola Ochs

Nola Ochs was born in rural Kansas in 1911 where, after graduating from high school,she taught in a one-room schoolhouse before marrying and raising a family.  After her husband died in 1979, Ms. Ochs began taking community college classes before enrolling at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas where, in 2007 she received a BA in General Studies with a specialization in history.  In an interview that year she said “as long as I have my mind and health, age is just a number.” Ms. Ochs died in 2016 at age 105, leaving 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.