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Lifelong Learning, Or Long-Life Learning?

May 20, 2021

Many adults in their 40s, 50s, and 60s have migrated from their initial career to a second or even a third, learning new skill sets or even going back to college for another degree. You learn all your life, the thinking goes. A pair of higher education professionals are proposing a variation on that idea: keep schooling yourself for decades, not only to get new job skills but to understand how to age well and deepen the meaning of life's journey. 

Rovy Branon, a vice provost at the University of Washington, and Ingo Rauth, a professor at Spain's tech-focused IE University, have co-written a white paper calling for a "60-year curriculum" in which colleges would not simply cater to young adults, but to all generations. (According to Next Avenue, just 0.2% of U.S. college students are age 55 or older.) In this model, the university would be a place of respite, where workers phased out of fading or slumping industries could take a break of a year, two years or longer to explore other career or life paths. The model calls for an explicit emphasis on easily accessible online learning, which is commonly less expensive than the traditional college experience. The pandemic may have opened the door to this new style of curriculum, to the degree that it could become familiar for older adults in the decades ahead.3