While community colleges
are known to provide opportunities for both young and adult learners, new programs are gearing courses and venues to more strongly focus on senior and retired community members. Paired with this, many community colleges offer substantial education discounts. For example, Terra Community College
, in Fremont Ohio, offers individuals 60 and older with free tuition. Here, older students are able to participate in courses under non-credit agreements, and they are only responsible for the costs of lab fees, books, and any other course supplies.
Are Community College Programs the Right Fit for Older Students?
While beginning any new course of study, regardless of age, may be nerve wracking, studies show that an increasing number of retired community members are taking courses. According to a Washington State Community College
interview, a student asserted that it is not at all unusual to see people ranging from 40 to 60, or older, in various courses. On average, this interviewed student claims to have at least one to three older students in each of her classes.
As Janienne Jennrich further supports, in her article “Senior Citizens Going to College, “quite often, older students are rather popular. It all depends on personality and being willing to join into discussions and events.” As most of the staff members and instructors are also often older, mature students bring a different set of experiences and potentials to a college course. With this, seniors are not only welcome to take community college courses, but are also strongly encouraged, as many seniors’ intelligence and skills help assist the younger students, creating a more well rounded classroom atmosphere.
What Courses Can I Take?
Seniors are able to take any course of study available, yet most retired individuals are drawn to courses to enhance their own hobbies or personal interests. The courses that did not seem “practical” when seeking a job
are now the courses that retired individuals are enrolling and enjoying.
For example, community colleges have recently provided non-degree seeking programs
in art, such as ceramics, jewelry, drawing, painting and so forth. Paired with this, many schools offer non-degree cooking courses
, focusing in various cultures, countries, flavors, and styles of cooking. Most recently, physical courses, such as yoga and water aerobics, have become healthy and socially enjoyable options for senior students.
Unique Senior Programs
Clinton, Muscatine and Scott Community Colleges
, located in Iowa, are some of the schools that collaborate to offer a diverse and unique range of continuing education courses designed specifically for older students. As the schools describe, “These classes range from gardening to history, trips and tours to physical fitness, just to name a few. In addition to those classes designed just for older adults, many of our traditional Continuing Education classes will interest seniors as well.”
Offering courses year round, these community colleges provide both social and educational courses, some of the others which include Frisbee golf, hiking, internet surfing, the art of eating, and supermarket savvy. Paired with this, these colleges also offer tour programs, where students can go on museum, marsh, and local island tours.
Popular Fitness Courses
Paradise Valley Community College
, of Phenoix Arizona, is one of the many colleges offering fitness programs specifically designed for senior students. With a wide range of course options available in fall, spring, and summer semesters, one of the most popular classes is their “Aerobics for Senior Adults.” This class is formatted for individuals over 55, and includes “music and class tempo […] flexibility exercises, cardiovascular conditioning, and strengthening and toning exercises.” Other popular group fitness courses include kickboxing, stability ball, step aerobics, low impact aerobics, boot camp, sculpt & tone, silver sneakers, and many more. Fitness programs for seniors are widely available, as each college offers a unique set of courses.
Opportunities Outside of the Classroom
For seniors interested in learning, but uninterested or unable to get to the classroom, community colleges also offer other modes of instruction, such as online and telecourse classes.
Online Learning Opportunities
While each community college is different, most schools offer various online courses
with active instructors who provide educational support. Here, “Teachers and students post email-type messages, and receive and submit information and assignments through the website” (Jennrich). Although this venue lacks the social elements of face-to-face interaction, online courses provide students of all ages with the flexibility to work from home, while allowing all students to work at their own pace.
For seniors or individuals who are homebound for any reason, online learning is a potential outreach to remain engaged and active—especially if getting into the classroom would have been a potential setback. Also, online courses are normally cheaper, and do not require the additional costs of gas expenses, parking fees, and so forth.
Telecourse is another option for those interested in learning from home. These courses implement televised or videotaped lessons. Students are able to take telecourse classes with flexible ease, and normally take tests or quizzes online or at the college site testing lab.
Regardless of the setting, the community college opportunities are widely available for those “Seeking an education, learning a new language, taking an art course, or learning about world history... whatever one studies stimulates the brain, opens the mind, and enriches one's life” (Jennrich).