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Life-Long Learning Key to Quality of Life

Posted Oct 17 2012 9:00am



According to the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College older adults have a higher level of educational attainment than previous generations, and many are still actively involved in advancing their education. “In 1965, 24 percent of the older population had graduated from high school, and only 5 percent had at least a bachelor’s degree. By 2008, 77 percent were high school graduates or more, and 21 percent had a bachelor’s degree or more,” according to the Older Americans 2010 report.

Adults ages 55 to 74 with a four-year college degree has increased from 9 to 27 percent. The share of adults ages 55 to 74 who have a college degree is projected to rise to 31 one-half (50 percent) of women aged 55-64 had at least some college education compared with only slightly more than a fifth (22 percent) in 1984.

Recent reports show that a small proportion of older (1.4% of those aged 40+) are enrolled as full-time students in public or private institutions of higher education. Projections suggest that “educational upgrading” by older adults (ages 40-64) is occurring, with approximately 1 million projected to earn bachelor’s degrees and 1.2 million master’s degrees between 2008-2018. Among college-going adults aged 50+, half of them attend community colleges.


Older adults with higher educational attainment are less likely to be unemployed and less likely to be employed in physically-demanding jobs or jobs with difficult working conditions. They also are more likely to have access to flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or the ability to control their work schedules.

In 2009, “10.8 percent of workers age 65 or older who had not completed high school were unemployed, compared with 5.8 percent of their counterparts who completed four or more years of college, according to a 2009 analysis of data from the Current Population Survey. Some of this should come as no surprise. 

What I have found in the thousands of hours I spend around seniors is that those with the highest quality of life exhibit certain attributes. One is the desire for life-long learning. Makes sense too doesn’t it. If you continue to learn and challenge your mind, chances are you might hold off dementia and the dreaded Alzheimer’s Disease. As Jim Rohn says “Formal education will get you a job. Self education will get you rich.”

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