I have always
enjoyed learning, whether it is traditional “book-learning” or the more spontaneous kind. Since receiving my Bachelor’s degree in 1980 from Emporia State University, I’ve returned to school many times for a class or two – I even completed 20 hours toward a Master’s degree before I met my husband. I stopped taking classes toward that degree to help him finish a very important job – raising three teenaged girls. Now, I’m a grandmother, with six beautiful grandchildren.
But that love of learning still lives. In 2010, I decided to begin a Master’s program in Gerontology – the study of aging. I enrolled in the program through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP-IDEA), an alliance founded in 1994 capitalizing on the institutional resources of 11 major research universities (my "home" university, Kansas State University, is one) to sponsor graduate education programs through distributed learning technologies. The Alliance offers fully-online graduate coursework and program options in selected professional fields.
When I started the program, I was sure that I would be the oldest student in the program. Since then, I’ve learned that several of my classmates are older than me. I really enjoy the interaction and exchange of views in the class discussions, since others of my classmates are in their twenties and thirties. The variety of experiences and mindsets only enriches the learning experience.
I take one course each semester – one is about all I can handle since I work full-time, have health issues, and have family obligations - and, to date, I’ve taken summers off. I’ve completed 15 hours now, and I’m currently taking another class. Is it sometimes difficult to keep going? Sure! Is it tiring? Almost always! Is it worth it? Without a doubt!
You may ask why someone who is 55 years old would continue with a course of education that could lead to a career change. I am extremely happy in my current job, but who knows what the future holds? I am one of those late “baby boomers” who may see changes in Social Security benefits before I am eligible to claim them, so this educational path may lead to a new career for the latter part of my work life. Too, if I can help change the future attitudes and care standards for the frail elderly, it may make a difference in the lives of many others – as well as my own!