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Online Learning for Seniors: The 6 Best Free Online Courses

Senior Living Tips | Here For Myself

Now more than ever, online learning is empowering older adults to continue their education, dive into their interests or learn something completely new. When it comes to online learning for seniors, there are a variety of benefits and the options for the types of courses to choose from are truly limitless. 

Don’t let the infinite possibilities of online learning leave you confused on where to start. Below is a list of key things to know about online learning for seniors, including the current landscape of seniors and technology, the top benefits of online learning and the best free online classes for seniors.

Seniors And Technology

Due in part to the pandemic, seniors started using the internet more with 81% of seniors reporting that they use the web daily. 

Whether it's connecting with loved ones via Facetime or hopping on telemedicine calls with their doctor, seniors are tackling technology and using online tools to better their lives and explore their passions.

Older woman video chatting

How Seniors Are Using Technology:

  • Exercise. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused people to reconsider the use of gyms for exercise. As a result, it's no surprise that more seniors are taking advantage of online health classes and workouts. In fact, three in 10 seniors think online health activities could replace, or at least supplement, going to the gym.

  • Connecting with family. Tools like Facetime and Zoom have allowed older adults to stay in touch with family from afar. The use of daily video calls for seniors has increased from 16% in 2016 to 38% today.

  • Finding new hobbies and entertainment. Retirement provides the perfect opportunity to spend time on current interests and discover new ones. From ebooks and audiobooks, to instructional courses on hobbies like knitting and cooking, the possibility for entertainment online are endless.

Rapid advances in technology are also carving a pathway for older adults to improve and learn new skills. Seniors are more connected to technology than ever before, allowing them to embrace new tech and a wide range of benefits. 

The Benefits Of Online Learning For Seniors

It Fits Your Schedule

From a desktop to a tablet or even your mobile device, wherever you can access the internet or your downloaded applications, you can log into a virtual class. 

Most online classes have a schedule outlining the course overview and what to expect. While providing structure, this also provides flexibility in determining when you want to tune in, study and do coursework. Many online classes are pre-recorded, and therefore can be self-paced, giving extra freedom to fit a course into your schedule.

Senior man using iPad

It Offers Social Opportunities

School is one of the best places to make friends and that’s still true with online classes. While virtual learning is remote, it still provides opportunities to connect with others who have similar interests. 

With more seniors becoming tech-savvy, there are new ways to collaborate with others and meet new, like-minded people. Here are a few places online where you can meet new friends on the digital playground:

  • Study forums.
  • Interactive classes with video streaming.
  • Online group projects, like virtual volunteering.
  • Virtual book clubs.

It Supports Cognitive Function  

The brain behaves like a muscle, which means in order to keep it strong and healthy, you need to keep it engaged — and challenged — on a regular basis. Learning something new or sharpening old skills through an online course are great ways to preserve and even strengthen cognitive function. 

Related: Technology Trends That Are Assisting Seniors

6 Best Free Online Courses For Seniors

A quick internet search of courses in your desired subject will bring up a variety of options for you to choose from. One thing you’ll notice is that most of the virtual learning options for seniors don’t take the form of a traditional class.

Senior couple doing online exercise video

Many outlets are experimenting with ways to engage seniors in online learning. Community colleges and universities, workshop providers and nonprofit organizations are all tapping into the online adult education marketplace. Here are a few of the best free online classes for seniors:

1. University Courses

Universities across the country offer courses taught by experts in the field. If you are looking to pursue a formal degree or take an accredited course, this option may make sense for you. While some classes with a live instructor take place over the course of a typical college semester, others, like courses through HarvardX, are self-paced (and free!). Other hubs offering free online classes for seniors can be found at Class Central and Coursera.

2. Online Courses 

You don’t need to be admitted into a university to learn new skills. Nonprofit educational organizations like Senior Planet (sponsored by AARP) offer a menu of online classes from art to writing. Learn at your own speed with recorded or live instructional video seminars. 

3. Virtual Fitness Classes Or Apps

If you’re looking to kickstart healthy habits, you have options to choose from. Fitness apps are ever-evolving, and more apps are catering to the 50+ marketplace. Flip50 is an app designed for those 50 and older that provides users with access to gyms nationwide, wellness plans, discounts on massage, acupuncture and other therapies, and more.

4. TEDTalks

Since the early 1980s, TEDTalks videos have provided expert insight into a variety of topics. The best part? All videos are under 18 minutes, meaning you can gain new knowledge or perspective without the in-depth nature of a class. 

5. eBooks and Audiobooks

There are a variety of eBook and audiobook platforms that offer the opportunity to learn more about a topic of interest. Self-help books, autobiographies and biographies, and non-fiction literature are all great places to start if you’re looking to read up on a topic. Older adults that are vision-impaired may be eligible for the National Library Services’ free braille and talking book library service.

6. Local Business Seminars

From the public library to the yoga studio, refer to the websites and social pages of local businesses in your area to see what sort of online educational classes, events or seminars they may be hosting. These events are often free or of minimal charge and are a great opportunity to support the small businesses around you.

Whether you’re looking for a how-to course on publishing a novel, curious about the Revolutionary War or interested in learning how to maintain optimal health as you age, the world of online learning is vast. Picking up new knowledge or adding a unique skill to your arsenal is great for social engagement, life purpose, brain health and more.

Events And Activities At StoryPoint

At StoryPoint, residents can learn new skills every day with engaging activities and events including, educational classes and seminars, game nights, cooking demonstrations and more. For more information, call us at 1-855-407-8679.

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