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It’s Time to Head Back to School no Matter Your Age!

By Deborah Voll September 20, 2022 Lifestyle

The mornings are cooler and that hint of fall is in the air! Yellow school buses are making the rounds, kids are back in school, and the excitement of a new bookbag, crayons, and various school supplies reminds us that a fresh start is exactly what we need.

Who doesn’t remember bringing their textbooks home and wrapping them with a homemade book cover? (I guess I am really showing my age!) What about those brand new Pee Chee folders for notes that by the holiday break would be filled with doodles and hearts?

Getting back in the classroom with new supplies and a fresh new outfit gave us hope for new learning, friendships, and opportunities! Although days are getting shorter on sunshine, our optimism for a new chance is as fresh as a crisp, red apple.

Does the opportunity for learning something new only belong to kids? Why does it need to be any different for us as we get older? Fall is the perfect time to try a new exercise routine (hello, hot yoga!), start a new hobby (hello, constructing a Little-Free-Library), or take a new class (hello, French for beginners). And one of the best aspects of trying something new when we’re older is that we can do it from the comfort of our living room.

Want to Keep Your Brain Young?

Is learning the fountain of youth? YES!

The benefits of life-long learning range from improved memory and cognitive skills to improved mood. Researchers have found that older adults who participate in classes are happier and more resilient than adults who pass on trying something new.

Taking classes in any subject promotes new brain cell and neuron growth as well as fights against developing dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life. According to researcher Dr. Ipsit Vahia of Harvard, “New brain cell growth can happen late into adulthood. The process of learning and acquiring new information and experiences, like through structured classes, stimulates that process.”

We think that learning how to snorkel and taking language classes are fun activities, but they also keep our brains agile and elastic – both important in healthy brain function later in life.

Learning Is Like Taking Your Brain to the Gym

Picture children. They are constantly learning new skills like reading, writing, playing instruments, or even games outside with their friends. The same is true for us – one of the top ways to keep our brain young is to continually seek out new activities and challenges.

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, a lifelong learning researcher says, “Lifelong learning is like a health club for your brain. And an active mind can stimulate physical activity and keep your spirits high. It’s an all-around fantastic tool for better health.

Learning doesn’t just need to be academic to be helpful to your brain either. Explore a new hobby, learn a complicated game (like bridge or mahjong), or teach yourself to use new technology. These all create new pathways in the brain.

Want to Be Happier and Smarter?

And the emotional growth gained by learning is just as important as cognitive benefits. Author Ellen Ryan, who wrote the article “6 Benefits of Learning a New Skill Later in Life” for Next Avenue, listed the benefits she experienced as an adult learner as “…seeing tangible growth, getting out of a rut, feeling empowered, and expanding my social circle.”

Harvard researchers agree that adults who continue to pursue learning feel more confident, have more friends, slow the aging process, and even look younger! Learning really is the fountain of youth.

The Benefits of Online Classes

So, where do you find classes that fit your schedule and your interests? Online, of course! The perfect class for you is just a click away.

Due to the coronavirus, more and more online options are available every day in courses that range from history, exercise, and language, to drawing, painting, and music.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that during the pandemic search for online courses, adult online classes, and e-learning increased to four times the pre-pandemic numbers.

Another benefit of online learning is that it gives you flexibility. Online courses are offered throughout the day and evening, and even on weekends. And you can learn at your own pace.

Want to take a night class because you’re busy volunteering during the day? No problem. Going on vacation during the third week of your class but still want to attend? No problem. Want to take a class that is only one day long? No problem.

One of my closest friends, Marcy, an active golfer and traveler who is also 100% Irish, loves her Ancient Ireland class because she finishes the reading, watches the short videos and lectures, and posts questions on the discussion board when it works in her schedule.

Finally, e-learning allows you to access your classes from your phone, tablet, or home computer. Imagine listening to your instructor go over Edgar Allen Poe’s early life in your Gothic Literature class while going for a walk or relaxing on your porch. Better than sitting at an uncomfortable desk, right?

Ready to Get Started?

Check out these sites to find a class you’ll love. I promise, there is something for everyone.


Masterclass is a great place to learn from the best. Want Gordon Ramsey to teach you to cook? Would you take a tennis lesson from Serena Williams? What if James Patterson could teach you how to write? For between $15 to $25 dollars a month you can learn from the experts.


Skillshare is a popular platform for those looking to learn a new hobby, deepen existing skills, or explore a wide range of offerings. For only $14 a month subscribers get access to everything.


Coursera partners with universities and companies to offer classes with the option to earn a degree or certificate. Another benefit of the Coursera platform is that some courses are only one day long! Some classes on Coursera are free, while others require a one-time fee or subscription.


Would you like the chance to attend a class from Harvard or MIT? If you want to take classes without earning a degree, most of the offerings at edX are free.


Udemy is another great platform with a plethora of choices. On Udemy, instructors set their own prices, but hundreds of classes are only $14 to start.

All that’s missing is the blackboard and the chalk!

Thinking about taking a class but not sure where to start? I help women over 40 pivot and reevaluate their goals in midlife, and I would love to help you! Check out my website to book a FREE Clarity Session. Other resources I offer include my Passion and Purpose Workbook collection and my Podcast, “Calm the Chaos.”

Let’s Start a Conversation:

Have you taken an online course before? What was your experience like? Do you have any recommendations? What classes would you be interested in signing up for this fall? Are you more interested in the emotional benefits or cognitive benefits of life-long learning? Taking a class with a friend is twice as fun – who could take a class with you?

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I’ve been an off-again on-again university student since the mid-70’s (mostly pre and post working years) and have no intention of stopping now at age 80. The only difference from half a dozen years ago is taking them online now. It just feels so strange to be in an actual classroom with those doggone kids who insist on getting younger every year. (Don’t know how that happens.) Also, it gives me more flexibility in scheduling. Anyway, I only take one a semester, because why not? I can dig into the subject, and it’s not like I’m planning to start a new career. This semester…Soc. 411, Sociology of War, a timely topic. I anticipate getting a B.A.S.S. one of these days in addition to a couple of Associates degrees that I needed and got years ago for my career in the merchant marine. I think everyone should keep studying all of their lives. So many fascinating things to learn.


Lynne, that’s amazing! I always say to stay curious! It’s what keeps us young at hear and helps our brain! I’m sure you have inspired someone to check out a class this fall! Thank you!


In the USA, every state & county have classes for a fee at their local Extension Office: you can become a Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, or take classes in canning or meal planning. I did all of those classes in both Illinois and in Alabama. I loved them.


Bethany, thank you for sharing these resources! Any classes for you this fall?


The Author

Deborah Voll is a Professional Life & Career Coach who knows from her own experience that “it’s never too late to have the life you want.” Deborah helps you break through the barriers so you can reach your goals. Reach out for a clarity call or check out her Passion and Purpose Workbook.

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