5 Ways to Learn in Your Third Age

Humans are living 30 years longer than they did in 1900. Now, those of us 55 to 79 have a "third age" in which to learn whatever we want, whether it involves going back to school in a formal classroom (virtual or on campus) or more casual learning on our own, even just dabbling.

This is not to be confused with the Third Age that J.R.R. Tolkien created in his trilogy Lord of the Rings, obviously, but if you mention the third age in a social setting and younger eyebrows go up, this may be the reason, so it's a good thing for you to know. You'll sound so hip when you know why they're surprised. Tolkien's Third Age ends with the defeat of the villain Sauron in the War of the Ring.

Here are five ways to learn in the third age. What will you choose?

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Go Back to School

Graduate - Jupiterimages - Stockbyte - GettyImages-86517609
Jupiterimages - Stockbyte - GettyImages-86517609

Should you go back to school? The decision is a different one for each of us and depends a lot on age, retirement (or not), and finances. Have you always wanted to earn a degree? Another degree? Maybe you've always dreamed of getting your GED or high school equivalency certificate. This might be your time.

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Take a Class Here and There

jo unruh - E Plus - Getty Images 185107210

Going back to school doesn't have to be a serious endeavor. Many communities offer seminars in all kinds of fabulous topics taught by community experts in casual settings, often on evenings and weekends. If you're in your third age, chances are good you've taken a good number of these seminars already, or taught them yourself! If not, find out what your community offers. Dabble!

You're likely to find classes at community colleges and senior centers.

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Take a Webinar

Sofie Delauw - Cultura - Getty Images

The web is full of wonderful, and free, learning opportunities. Seminars on the web are called webinars, and many of them are free. Find the webinars that interest you by searching for the keywords that describe your interest. Huge Internet courses are referred to as MOOCs (massive open online courses).

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Be a Mentor

Knitting - Fabrice LEROUGE - ONOKY - GettyImages-155298253
Fabrice LEROUGE - ONOKY - GettyImages-155298253

Teaching what you know, and the new things you've learned, can be one of the best, and most rewarding, ways of learning even more. Find a person in your community, youth or adult, who could use a mentor. Have lunch once a month, once a week, however often the two of you decide, and share your knowledge.

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Volunteer - KidStock - Blend Images - GettyImages-533768927
KidStock - Blend Images - GettyImages-533768927

Everyone I know who volunteers finds the experience far more rewarding than expected. I often hear people say, "I got so much more than I gave." And every one of them is surprised the first time. Volunteering is contagious. Do it once and you'll be hooked. You'll also learn new things. Every time. Be a volunteer.