Why Investing in Education is a Win for Over 50s

  • Published on:
    February 11, 2024
  • Reading time by:
    3 minutes

We are willing to bet that there was an occasion – maybe thirty to fifty years ago – when you left school or university for the very last time and thought ‘That’s it! I’m done with the education system’. Are we right?

Well, if we are, then how do you feel about that now?

It might surprise you to discover that, as of May 2023, 6.7% of women, between the ages of 50 and 74, are currently enrolled in study. So, seniors should not see education as purely a young person’s domain.

If you don’t want to pursue academia, that is your prerogative. However, if you find yourself treading water in your career, needing a new challenge in life or simply wanting to learn more about a new subject, we are here to show you that investing in education can result in a significant win for those who are over the age of 50. Allow us to elaborate.

Why Should I Enrol in Study?

One of the first things that might cross your mind when someone mentions studying as a 50+ year old is ‘why should I enrol in study?’.

Well, there are any number of reasons for which you might want to do so, but the main ones include the following:

Enhance or Change Career Opportunities

Around the age of 50, many people get to a point where they want to gain promotions or assume more fulfilling roles – often in completely different industries and disciplines, or self-employment.

However, if they lack a qualification or if the industry is new to them or constantly evolving, this might prove difficult. Therefore, to make them more attractive as a candidate, it is often necessary to enrol in a university course.

Learn new technologies

In the last 30 years, the digital age has revolutionised how we communicate and perform critical functions at work and in our personal lives. However, many people of mature years are still not au fait with modern technology.

For this reason, many over 50s choose to enroll in study to learn new technologies and digital skills, such as basic computer literacy or programming to help them adapt to them. With these skills, one might wonder, can you work from home with a computer science degree?

Unfinished Business

Some people enrol in education as mature students because they feel like they have unfinished business. Perhaps they dropped out of school or university early or they didn’t attend because they wanted to earn money or couldn’t afford to go.

Whatever their personal reasons for doing so, there is a core group of over 50s who are studying to fulfil a long-held wish or simply just prove they can do it.

Challenge the Mind

By the time they reach their fifties, it is easy for some people to get stuck in a comfort zone or rut. This could lead to their brains becoming less sharp as they don’t actively do things that stimulate them.

Several studies have shown that cognitive decline can occur in individuals over the age of 50 who don’t engage in intellectual activities that can create new neural connections. For some people, taking a degree course at university is their way of combating this and a good way to keep themselves busy.

Social Connections

As well as challenging your mind, enrolling in a university course is a good way to make social connections with new, like-minded people.

Some subjects require discussions, collaborative projects and group learning experiences, which result in you interacting with others. Moreover, if you attend lectures at a physical location, this can also reduce feelings of social interaction that some over 50s may experience, particularly if they are single, do not have children or that many friends.

Thus, it can provide them with a sense of community and belonging they otherwise would not have.

Courses

Whether you are planning to attend Tafe, a traditional red brick university or an online institution, there are several courses you can choose to study. 

Here are some of the most popular subjects for the over 50s age bracket.

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Childcare
  • Coding and Programming
  • Creative Arts
  • Culinary Arts
  • Data Science
  • Digital Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Teaching

Personally, online institutions offer the most flexibility for over 55s pursuing further education. This is because the classes offer pre-established modules that can be taken in your own time, suiting whatever lifestyle you may lead. 

For example, if you wish to pursue a Master in Data Science and build off your existing skill set, you can complete an online course with UNSW. This course offers flexibility, allowing you to complete modules at your own pace. 

Benefits of studying for Over 50s

There are several benefits to studying for over 50s that can make doing so an attractive proposition.

For a start, most universities set aside a certain allocation on each of their courses for mature students and the entry requirements for them tend to be more flexible than for those coming straight from school. There are also usually good funding grants and incentives to attract them too.

Older students also tend to have more life experience which can often help them relate to certain aspects of their course as well. You’ll generally find younger students are very supportive as well and even inspired by your presence.

In addition, you should also be eligible for student discounts, which can help to reduce costs of everything from travel and food to clothes and electronic devices.

Challenges

Despite these benefits, it is worth mentioning that mature students can face some challenges when enrolling in a course of study.

One of the toughest ones is financing the degree – particularly if it is a multi-year course – although, as mentioned, there are grants and incentives that can help reduce the costs. Another is balancing their work or home commitments with the study, which can prove problematic if you are not super organised.

On top of this, some mature students can find it difficult to adjust to concentrating for prolonged periods on learning, if they haven’t done it for a while. Moreover, if they are not tech savvy, it can take a bit of time to adapt to specific programmes or a new way of learning.

Final Thoughts

There is no age limit to studying at university – Shigemi Hirata (96 years old) and Nola Ochs (95 years old) are proof of that. But if you are over the age of 50 and you want to invest in education it is important to be clear as to why.

At the end of the day, whether your motivation for gaining a degree is to get a new job, challenge yourself mentally or achieve a long-term ambition, if you are clear in your focus and you put in the work, you’ll give yourself every chance of succeeding. 

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