This is the story continuing educators have heard for 30 years
I suppose as long as it makes news, we have some measure of job security. Maybe not a lot, but some. From Michele Willens, writing in The Atlantic.
I am clearly not alone in my quest for academic validation: Well over half a million of the students enrolled in degree-granting institutions are over the age of 50. “One advantage about returning to college later in life is that the student will likely have a greater sense of purpose and focus and thus be able to capitalize better on what is offered,” says Margaret Gatz, a psychology professor at University of Southern California. “Another advantage is that the older student brings a lifetime of experiences and knowledge to the new information being presented and thus can have a richer learning experience.”
Gatz points out potential barriers, including competing demands. (Every time I tell my adviser that I can’t imagine how students could be taking four, even five classes at a time, he reminds me they are not also running a household and writing plays. Oh, that.) Another hurdle might be physical stamina. “The older student will be surrounded by college-age youth who have agile memories and who can stay up all night to cram for an exam or finish a paper,” says Gatz. “This just means that the older student must be craftier.”
Fortunately, there is increasing evidence that older students can succeed and that it will even keep our minds sharper. “There is as much variation in an aging brain as there is in a school child’s brain,” says New York psychiatrist Roger Gould. “If you and your brain are healthy, the only limitations to learning new mental skills and information are your motivation and natural intelligence.”
James Fallon, a neuroscientist at University of Irvine, claims “people are at their maximum cognitive abilities are in their 60s. It’s the ideal time to balance their executive functions, which younger students don’t necessarily have yet, with intellectual techniques which are likely still there but haven’t been used for a long time.” Fallon, who is 66, says, “I have never been more creative and productive.”