Programs for Senior Citizens and Retirees at Community Colleges

Programs for Senior Citizens and Retirees at Community Colleges
Read about the increasing number of programs for senior citizens and retirees at community colleges.

While community colleges are known to provide opportunities for young and adult learners, new programs are gearing courses and venues to focus more strongly 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 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, can be nerve-wracking, studies show that more retired community members are taking courses. According to a Washington State Community College interview, a student asserted that seeing people aged 40 to 60 or older in various courses is not unusual. On average, this interviewed student claims to have at least one to three older students in 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 willingness to join discussions and events.” As most staff members and instructors are also often older, mature students bring different experiences and potential 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.

In this video, Janice Crowley talks about older students in college.

What Courses Can I Take?

Seniors can take any course of study available, yet most retired individuals are drawn to courses to enhance their hobbies or interests. The courses that did not seem “practical” when seeking a job are now those that retired individuals are enrolling in and enjoying.

For example, community colleges have recently provided non-degree-seeking programs in art, such as ceramics, jewelry, drawing, painting, etc. Paired with this, many schools offer non-degree cooking courses, focusing on various cultures, countries, flavors, and cooking styles. Most recently, physical courses, such as yoga and water aerobics, have become healthy and socially enjoyable for senior students.

Unique Senior Programs

Clinton, Muscatine, and Scott Community Colleges, located in Iowa, are some 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 also interest seniors.”

In this video, Zamekio Jackson reports on community colleges' free tuition for senior citizens.

Offering courses year-round, these community colleges provide social and educational courses, some of 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 Phoenix, 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 “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. “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 homebound individuals, 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 additional gas expenses, parking fees, etc.

Telecourse Opportunities

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, 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 stimulate the brain, opens the mind, and enriches one's life” (Jennrich).

In this video, Dr. Maureen Kellen-Taylor discusses teaching adults.

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