Wednesday, November 23, 2011

11 Elderly Learners Who Are Incredibly Inspiring

School is often thought of as something reserved for the young: schoolchildren, college students fresh out of high school, and even young professionals earning master’s degrees. But the fact is that lifelong learning is something that’s beneficial at any age, and studies have shown that staying mentally active into your old age is good for both physical and mental health. Education is valuable whether you’re going back to school for a new career, or just need something to do in your retirement years, and these 11 elderly learners offer an incredible amount of inspiration to never, ever stop learning.

  1. JoAn Blake

    At 42, we’re not sure that JoAn exactly qualifies as "elderly," but she was roughly double the age of her classmates at Roxbury Community College and Boston University. Although she’s not the typical student in college, she was there for a good reason. She’s the mother of four children, one of whom was recently killed in a car accident. To cope with her loss, Blake enrolled in school to fulfill her lost daughter’s dream of studying clinical science to help sick kids. With the help of a Boston University’s Metropolitan College scholarship offering money for school to parents of children in Boston Public Schools, Blake graduated, with honors, earning a bachelor’s degree in clinical science and fulfilling a dream. The experience has been inspirational to others around Blake as well, giving her three surviving children the courage to pursue their own dreams of becoming physical therapists and law school students.

  2. Wood and Lillian Nordenholz

    Wood and Lillian Nordenholz, both 71, have made master’s degrees a part of their retirement plans, pursuing a love of intellectual curiosity together at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. As part-time students in the Master of Liberal Studies program, they are simply enjoying "the journey rather than the destination." Their lifelong love of learning is inspiring to all students and learners, as it’s for the pure joy of acquiring knowledge: the Nordenholzes are both retired and do not plan to pursue careers upon graduation from the program.

  3. Kimani Nganga Maruge

    Before his death, Kimani Nganga Maruge was considered one of the oldest students in the world, an elementary school student in Kenya at the ripe old age of 89. In 2003, Kenya’s government passed a law for free universal education in primary school, and Maruge, then 86, took them up on it, enrolling in his local elementary school after convincing the school’s administration to admit him at such an advanced age. His hope as a student was to improve life for his family, as "those with education are always the most successful," priding himself on doing hard work. In his two years of studying at his local school in Kenya, he didn’t miss a day of class, walking to school each day, even with a limp from a toe lost during Kenya’s war for independence in 1952. And when Maruge was diagnosed with cancer, he enrolled in a new school in Nairobi, determined to learn to read. According to Action Aid International, Maruge was able to read the Bible to himself before he died, a lifelong goal that he frequently cited.

  4. Judi Babcock

    When the job market is a mess, sometimes the only choice you have is to go back to school. For Judi Babcock, unstable work in the film and TV post-production industry meant that her best choice was going back to school to study interior design at 52. She’s the oldest person in her class, but we’re willing to bet that she’s among the wisest. Not only was it a smart move for her to invest in her future for a more stable career, Babcock has made some smart financial moves as well. Low on savings from partial employment, and realizing that she’d come out of school at 57 potentially low on cash, she made some drastic moves that any student can learn from. She sold her condo, which will allow her to finish school without debt and free her up to create the independent interior design firm that she dreams to create upon graduation.

  5. Ma Xiuxian

    It’s interesting to see photos of 102 year old Ma Xiuxian sitting in her classroom next to young primary school students, and although the age in her face is markedly different than that of her classmates, you can see that her spirit is still youthful and ready to learn. After a busy life including working at a cotton mill at 13, marriage at 18, and giving birth to nine children, Xiuxian never had a chance to attend school as a child. But at 102, she revealed her dream of studying to a local newspaper, and was invited to enroll at Weishan Road Elementary school. Xiuxian is proud to take advantage of the opportunity, and it seems her classmates are as well: when she entered the classroom, her fellow students greeted her with applause.

  6. Bholaram Das

    At the age of 100, Bholaram Das began to study for his doctorate. But this is hardly the most interesting thing Das has done. At the age of 19, he was jailed during the freedom movement against British rule, then went on to graduate in commerce and study law. In his 100 years, he’s been a teacher, politician, lawyer, magistrate, and judge, retiring in 1971. But Das has not been completely content with his seemingly full life, choosing to pursue advanced studies at an advanced age. Das does not seem to have a definitive answer for why he chose to go back to school at the age of 100, except for this comment: "There is no age limit for acquiring knowledge."

  7. Nola Ochs

    Nola Ochs made history in 2007 when she became a Guinness World Record holder, the oldest college graduate in the world, which was 95 at the time. Her graduation was highly celebrated, as she graduated right alongside her granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, who was 21. For her accomplishment, she was named 2007 Kansas Woman Leader of the Year, and was featured on several shows, including The Tonight Show and MSNBC. But instead of sitting back and resting after her amazing accomplishment, Ochs kept going, pursuing a master’s degree in liberal studies, receiving her advanced degree in 2010 at the age of 98. According to FHSU, Ochs is still in school, pursuing a master’s degree in history, while still continuing to make history herself.

  8. Chao Mu-he

    Chao Mu-he’s college classmates know him as "Grandpa Chao." At 96, Mu-he graduated with a master’s degree in philosophy from Nanhua University in southern Taiwan. His reason for going back to school? He was told he was too old to keep volunteering at his local hospital, and he was bored, as he didn’t have any other hobbies to keep him busy. According to Mu-he, "I felt like I had to do something with my life." But Mu-he’s motivation wasn’t just for his own entertainment, rather, he also wanted to encourage of one his friend’s sons to to back to school, inviting him to study along with him in graduate school. Mu-he never missed a class in his two years of study, and is described as "diligent with a sense of humor" by his thesis adviser.

  9. Hazel Soares

    At the age of 94, Hazel Soares finally earned her college degree. When asked why it took her so long, she said that it’s because she’s "had a busy life." Indeed she has, graduating high school during the Great Depression, marrying twice, raising six children, and working as a nurse and event organizer before retiring. Retired, Soares finally had the time she needed to pursue a college education, and earned an associate’s degree at the age of 85. She continued her dream, earning a bachelor’s degree from Mills College in 2010. Soares has shown everyone she meets that you’re never too old to learn, and fellow graduates call her "an incredible inspiration." With her degree, Soares has pursued work as a docent at a San Francisco Bay area museum, which is sure to keep her busy and allow her to continue to inspire others to keep learning, no matter their age.

  10. Phyllis Turner

    Ninety-four year-old great-great-great-grandmother, Phyllis Turner completed her master’s degree in 2007, finally completing an educational journey that dropped off when she left school at the age of 12. She had quit so that she could help her mother look after her brothers and sisters after their father abandoned them, and then went on to raise her own seven children, as well as two stepchildren. Yet she still had enough energy to complete her basic education at nights, citing a love of studying. She began university level studies at the age of 70, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. After her husband died, Turner found a new pursuit: a master’s degree. Her professors believe that she is smart enough to continue on into a doctorate, but Turner has declined the opportunity, as her family wants her to take it easy. Still, Turner has completed an amazing feat, and has inspired not only the generations that follow her, but everyone who knows her story as well.

  11. Rev. Edgar Dowse

    Reverend Edgar Dowse, aged 93, earned a doctorate from the London School of Theology. At the time, he was the oldest person in the world to earn a PhD. But it seems that this degree was just one of many for the former vicar: he already had six degrees in Biblical studies and theology. Dowse was inspired to pursue his final and highest degree after being widowed. "After my wife, Ivy, died, in 1999, I felt the need for intense study," he said. Surely, he has been an inspiration to others as well, pursuing a life of studying in his spare time, and even continuing to actively preach while pursuing advanced degrees and enjoying retirement. Dowse has died since receiving his degree, but we know that his story has certainly offered inspiration and motivation to others to continue their studies even in old age.

Taken From Best Colleges Online

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