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Educational Opportunities in Retirement: No Retiree Left Behind

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

Henry Ford – Industrialist

Retirement is a time of exploration and one very important element of this involves educational opportunities. What things would you like to know more about, but have not had the time to learn? For me, I would like to understand how the economy works, learn to speak Spanish, and further a lifelong interest in astronomy. Because of my work schedule, I have been unable to take advantage of the numerous courses offered as part of the local junior college system on these topics. However, in retirement, I will have the time to explore.

In this article, I will review several educational options for seniors. These are options that are low or no cost. One of the advantages of getting older is that you are more likely to seek educational opportunities because you want to learn about the topic, not to attain some sort of certification. If this describes you, then there is a world of possibilities that are open. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

STATE COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES

Most states have either formal policies or actual state statutes that allow residents over the age of 60, 62, or 65 (depending on the state) to attend colleges in the system free or at a substantially reduced cost. Most of these are on a space available basis and do not offer credit for completion of a course. But, if you just want to explore and learn, this could be perfect for you.

The states that have these no- or low-cost education policies for seniors are:

Two year colleges only: Alabama

Four year colleges only: California, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, South Dakota

Both two- and four-year colleges: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming

In some instances, there might be restrictions, but check with the specific state to determine the limitations. This can be a good option depending on the content you are after and whether you need the structure of a formal class.

ON-LINE EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES

Over the last couple of years, educational opportunities delivered on-line have blossomed. These run the gamut from formal classes delivered through streaming video lectures, multiple-video modules focused on general topics, or relatively short video clips focused on a narrow topic. Let’s explore a couple of these possibilities.

Coursera

Coursera is an example of a growing number of educational opportunities available on-line. I will use Coursera as the example, but you can Google On-Line Courses Free and find others as well. Several courses are offered for free although you have the opportunity for certification for a fee that varies from $30 – $90 per course. These courses run over the course of an academic semester and have periodic lectures and “out of class” assignments similar to what you would find in a regular classroom. The difference is that you are attending on-line, not in person.

The courses that are offered change over time, but are taught by renowned faculty members from top public and private universities. The content of these courses run the gamut across the sciences, math, humanities, and social sciences. They vary considerably in terms of the background you need to understand the information. However, generally they should be comprehensible by the reasonably educated person. Here are some examples of courses currently being offered and the universities that are producing them:

Find, Fix, and Prevent Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities (University of Maryland)

Climate Change in Four Dimensions (University of California)

Computer Networks (University of Washington)

Social & Economic Networks (Stanford University)

Write and Produce Your Own Music (Berklee College of Music)

Write Like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music Composition (National University of Singapore)

The Power of Macroeconomics: Economic Principles in the Real World (University of California)

Global Sustainable Energy (University of Florida)

This list is just a small sampling of courses that are offered. Go on-line to read detailed descriptions of the courses offered and the background you will need. After that, all you will need to do is to sign-up and view the on-line lectures as they are scheduled. The Coursera home page can be found at www.coursera.org.

The Khan Academy

This is a website that offers videos covering topics in math, science, economics & finance, and the humanities. This site originally was developed by Sal Khan to assist his niece in grade school. It has expanded substantially from that. Go on to the site and you will have access to video clips ranging from around 5 – 20 minutes each explaining a specific topic. Need a basic refresher on high school algebra – this is the place. Need to understand some basic economic concepts – Khan will provide what you need. These topics are explained in very simple detail. There are, of course, Khan Academy knock-offs. However, no one does it like Sal Khan. Google or Bing Khan Academy for the link the website.

YouTube

YouTube is a resource that I have just discovered recently. This website provides access to streaming videos that explain nearly any topic that you would like information on. Do you need a video on how to check the oil level in your car? There are several videos on YouTube for that. Need to understand how to set the clock on your VCR – this is the place? Need to know how to hook up your home sound system – well you get the idea. You can find videos on virtually any topic of interest. However, YouTube goes far beyond these simple topics. Many university professors as well as high school AP teachers’ video tape their lectures and put them on YouTube. Just search on the topic you are interested seeing and all of the available videos will be listed. Click on those of interest and they will stream on your browser. The offerings vary in quality, but I have generally found what I was looking for and gotten the content I needed.

You can spend hours searching this site and viewing videos. It’s both entertaining and educational. The YouTube home page can be found at www.youtube.com

Here’s an idea. If you find a course on Coursera that you want that requires a background you don’t have, go to YouTube or the Khan Academy and view videos to get you up to speed on those required background topics. After that, go back to Coursera and sign-up.

In the world of your youth, if you wanted to learn about something your options were to read a book or attend a class. Sometimes these were at considerable expense and might not be readily available. In the new world, the educational options are nearly endless, free or low-cost, and available 24/7. All you need is the time to learn and explore. Welcome to retirement.

Music Develops The Child Brain

Music has the ability to train our brain for higher level of thinking – the kind of thinking for problem solving, comparing and contrasting the similarities and difference between objects, analyzing, reaching conclusion, synthesizing, and evaluating information.

In recent research, it was found that music can help in developing human’s spatial-temporal reasoning skill. Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to perceive the visual world accurately and form mental images of objects. It is the mind ability to see in very detailed images and to recognize, compare and find relationships among the patterns and details on an object. The temporal element involves a child’s ability to think ahead.

In learning music, one must be able to play a note, then a series of notes, then a series of chords, and the able to look ahead at the music and determine where and what will be played next.

Many studies and experiments have been conducted to prove the power of the music on our brain. Below are the finding in some recent years research:

Research and Finding 1:

In 1994, Drs Gordon Shaw and Frances Rauscher who are scientists at the University of California at Irvin, conducted an experiment to find out the link between spatial reasoning and music. They divided seventy-nice college students into three groups. Each group was given a cutting and folding task.

The first group was given the opportunity to listen to ten minutes of Mozart’s Sonata in D for Two pianos, K. 488. The second group heard ten minutes of minimalist (Philip Glass’s Music with Changing Parts) and rhythmically repetitive music (Ian Rich’s C-Level Productions mix of Mortal Stomp and Carry Me Through). The third was the control group where the students did not listen to any music piece.

The result was – there was no significant occurrence with the second and third group. However the students in the first group who had listened to the music of Mozart, experienced an increase in their spatial IQ of eight to nine points in just ten minutes! Although the effect was temporary, the scientists believed that a particular organization of the elements in the music caused the improvement in the spatial-temporal reasoning. This phenomenon is now commonly known as the “Mozart Effect”.

Research and Finding 2:

After the above experiment which showed that by listening to music, it could caused an increase in spatial-temporal reasoning, scientists began to wondered if the effect can be prolonged by studying a musical instrument.

To find out the result, the scientists conducted a test on thirty-three three-year-old pre-schoolers in Los Angeles. They choose three-year-old children because the cortexes of their brain were still maturing and any effect from music education will be most observed as compared to a matured brain.

The children were divided into two groups. The first group had 19 children who were provided with eight months of keyboard and singing lesson. The remaining 14 children belonged to the control group which did not receive any training. For the first group, their training consisted of weekly ten to fifteen minute private keyboard lesson, daily practice periods and a daily thirty minute singing time.

The children were tested after eight months later. They were required to perform five tasks to test their spatial reasoning:

- arranging pieces of a puzzle to form a complete picture

- matching depicted pattern using flat, two-colored blocks

- placing correct color pegs into holes under a series of pictured animals

- performing a geometric design task

- describing what was “wrong” or “silly” about a picture.

And here were results:

The spatial-temporal reasoning of the children in the control group increase by only 6 percent. However children from the group which received music training showed a great improved in their spatial-temporal reasoning by 46 percent!

Research and Finding 3:

To confirm the results and finding in the above experiment, the scientists conducted another test. This time they took another group of seventy-eight preschoolers and divided into four groups:

- The first group consisted of thirty-four students who were given private daily piano lessons

- The second group consisted of twenty students. The children in this group received ten minutes of private computer training every day.

- The third group had 12 students who received singing training

- The last group were a control group where the children did not attend any form of lesson.

The children were tested after six months later and the results were:

Children in the first group had the most dramatic improvement in spatial-temporal reasoning – an increased by 34 per cent in performance!

Research and Finding 4:

In 1998, the scientists perform another experiment to find out how a computer math game called “Spatial-Temporal Animation Reasoning (STAR) coupled with either piano lessons or English-language training affected students performance in math.

This experiment were conducted over 4 months period and the subjects were 170 second-graders from an elementary school in Los Angeles.

The children were divided into 3 groups:

- Group 1 consisted of children who studied the piano keyboard and the math video game

- Group 2 consisted of children who received English language training and studied the math video game

- Group 3 were the control group which did not receive any training.

After four months, a test were conducted and the results were:

Children in Group 1 and 2 who received training in the computer game showed a 100 percent improvement in their math skills as compared to the control group. Also, the students who received piano keyboard training along with the math video game did 27 percent better on questions related to fractions and proportional math than those who received training in English language and the math video game. And lastly, the teachers of the group also reported that the children who studied piano key boarding demonstrated better attention and concentration abilities!

What’s the Difference Between an MLM Business and a Pyramid Scheme?

If you are just beginning to get involved network marketing, you will soon notice things that might disturb you. Many people start looking at network marketing with its matrix pay system and recruitment bonuses, and they are suddenly reminded of pyramid schemes, which are illegal and which, with the emergence of the internet as an important form of communication, have seen a huge surge of popularity. The fact is, however, that a good MLM business is completely legal and will make you a certain amount of extra income. Unlike a pyramid scheme, an MLM business will in fact be something that you are proud to put on your portfolio and resume.

When you are trying to figure out if your MLM business is a legitimate one, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is where your money is coming from. While getting a bonus when you recruit someone new is very nice, you’ll find that a pyramid scheme will restrict the money you earn to a percentage of the recruitment fees. This means that it is near to impossible to make money just selling the product. With a good network marketing strategy, you’ll find that your money comes from the product as well.

There are many ways to tell the difference between an MLM business and a pyramid scheme. First, think about how much money you are required to invest up front. While a certain amount in materials can be legitimate, be careful if you are asked to pay a large sum. No legitimate MLM business will ask you to pay a large amount in start up fees, and you will find that the ones who do will show that this is where too much of the money you will make comes from.

Similarly, you can figure out if an opportunity is legitimate by asking about inventory. Many network marketing opportunities will allow you store your inventory with them, but if you are asked to buy it, figure out if they will by it back if you find that this opportunity is not for you. A legitimate MLM opportunity will make sure that you can sell back unused inventory; after all, they can always sell it again. However, pyramid schemes are looking to make sure that you have to keep it!

When you are trying to tell if your MLM business is good, just look critically and realistically at the goods or services provided. Is it really worth the money you spend on it? You’ll find that pyramid schemes put a lot more thought into the marketing and the selling and money earned that it does on the product, and this can act as a real red flag.

When you are thinking of joining up with an MLM business, remember to do your research. There are a lot of pyramid schemes out there that are disguising themselves as something legitimate, and the last thing you want to do is lose your money and get punished for something illegal besides!