March 2015  
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An Advantage of Aging in Minnesota

By Valorie Arrowsmith

Minnesota is often cited as a good place to live, and here is one more factor that can be added to that positive list.  Public colleges and universities in Minnesota have a special fee category for older learners.  It is called the Senior Citizen Discount, as mandated by the Legislative Statute 135A.52.  A resident, aged 62 and older, may enroll for college credit courses at a reduced fee.  In the case of the Anoka Ramsey Community College, the fee is $20 per credit, with the addition of $17.50 in administrative fees. At the University of Minnesota, the cost, even at the graduate level, is $10 per credit, with no administrative fees assessed. 

A reason to bring this to the attention of the community is that a recent story from the “New York Times” printed in the “Star Tribune” on December 28, 2014 (Ellin, p. A10), reported about how Baby Boomers are choosing, electing, guiding, and participating in their retirement care.  Researchers say that increasing age does not preclude creative growth (Sasser-Coen, 1993) and Baby Boomers are among those who are insisting on a creative retirement.

One feature of the story talked about the college-based retirement communities in which residents must take 450 hours of classes during a calendar year to qualify to live in the senior living establishment. There are about two dozen such university and retirement home relationships in the country.  The idea of continuing education for older populations is not that far removed from the Nordic folk high school model founded by Danish theologian N.S.F. Grundtvig, or of the thousands and thousands of study circles found in Sweden, a place of heritage and cultural connections for many people in the region.

Supply and demand may be at work here.  Baby Boomers are demanding more control over aging. Concurrent with such initiatives, researchers who specialize on aging and creativity say that it is important to be open to experiences in order to be considered creative.  This openness to experiences has proven to be a major predictor of divergent thinking, everyday creative activities, and achievements (Silvia, et al., 2009).  Certainly a college class would invite students to be open to new ideas, and provide opportunities for divergent thinking.  Mental stimulation would also be fostered.

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