Graduate School at Any Age, Just a Piece of Lifelong Learning

Posted Mar 05, 2020

Lifelong learning is becoming a common slogan and initiative for education.  Institutions of higher learning, like Otterbein University, and communities, such as Westerville, are all finding a demand for continuing programs and education from people of all ages in their communities.  Otterbein University has been in tune with this need and holds lifelong learning as a core value. Please find information at

On Nov. 28, 2019, The Washington Post posted an opinion piece by Dr. Laura Carstensen, professor of psychology at Stanford Center on Longevity, titled “We need a redesign of life.”

Dr. Carstensen speaks to the rapid increase in life expectancy of 30 years over the last century.  Most think, at least at first glance, that a longer life expectancy is a good thing, but not necessarily.  As we look at how our culture has dealt with this expected increase in life expectancy, the truth is that old age has gotten longer! 

Formal education still ends for most in their 20s, work life still ends in their 60s, but what has gotten longer is the now 30 to 40 years that can be spent in retirement.  For many, a 30- to 40-year retirement creates only more anxiety about maintaining good health and adequate finances.

This brings us to the Life Redesign suggested by Dr. Carstensen; traditional models of education, work, and recreation must change. In looking at formal education, can formal learning continue to end in your 20s?  With expected five to seven career (not job) changes during one’s working life, formal education must continue.  Graduate School is but one of the more structured educational offerings that must help bridge such a change.  Graduate School at any time, any age, and even at multiple times, endeavor.

Learning opportunities will be the key, not just formal education.  Non-degree programs, shorter certificate programs, unlearning and relearning must become the norm.  We all need to prepare ourselves for such a lifetime of learning.  As stated by Dr. Carstensen, “longer lives present us with an opportunity to redesign the way we live.  The greatest risk of failure is setting the bar too low.”

-Dean of The Graduate School Barbara Schaffner