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By Catherine Collinson / Oct 25, 2016

Lifelong Learning Alleviates Boredom in Retirement

23020_tlpbkcti21016_10_18_kathy_ta_institute_lifelong_learning_ta_blog_1024x438 While much of our learning takes place in earlier chapters of our lives, opportunities are popping up on college campuses and online for retirees to continue learning.

This is good news because retirees told us – in The Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2016 – that “being bored” was one of their biggest surprises in retirement. Retirees also indicated they missed having a schedule and the social interactions working gave them1.

Continued learning provides an opportunity for retirees to stay engaged and productive and allows them to pursue hobbies or explore topics they couldn’t when they were working.

There are other benefits, too.

Growing research shows that lifelong learning might protect against cognitive decline in late adulthood. In fact, in a recent survey of retirees conducted by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® among those who retired later than planned, 44% said they did so for enjoyment and to keep their brains active2.

To encourage retirees to engage in lifelong learning, many colleges and universities offer free or reduced tuition.

  • The Bernard Osher Foundation supports a growing national lifelong learning network for people 50 and older. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes operates on the campuses of nearly 120 institutions of higher education from Maine to Hawaii. Courses, lectures, and events span history, science, literature, religion, art, music, philosophy, and financial management. You must become a member to take a course. Membership fees vary by university, but generally range between $200 and $600 a year with no additional charge to take a course.
  • The Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement is open to approximately 550 students a year and offers 60 to 80 courses each semester. All have weekly reading assignments but no exams. The program costs $900 a year and includes up to three courses per semester. Enrollment can be stringent. Admission is based on your academic or career background and your willingness to run a study group.
  • At some colleges, retirees are allowed to audit classes at no cost but do not receive college credit for their coursework. They are typically available on a space-available basis only. Check with your local college or university to learn which options they offer.
  • Online courses taught by professors from top universities are also available from companies like Coursera and edX. And they’re free as long as you’re not looking to get a college degree.

What’s best about continued learning is the opportunity to nurture the mind and soul in retirement. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a long-neglected passion.

Listen to our podcast about lifelong learning.
1Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement, A Retirement Wake-Up Call, ©2016
2Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, The Current State of Retirement: Pre-Retiree Expectations and Retiree Realities, ©2016


Catherine Collinson serves as president of Transamerica Institute® and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies®. She is a retirement and market trends expert and champion for Americans at risk of not achieving a financially secure retirement. Catherine oversees all research, publications and outreach initiatives, including the Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey. She also serves as the executive director of Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement

Transamerica Institute® is a nonprofit, private foundation dedicated to identifying, researching and educating the public about retirement, health coverage, and other relevant financial issues facing Americans today. Transamerica Institute comprises two divisions: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® and Transamerica Center for Health Studies®. Transamerica Institute is funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance Company and its affiliates and may receive funds from unaffiliated third parties. For more information about the Institute, please refer to www.transamericainstitute.org