Boomer Women Keep Learning Through Higher Education, Travel and More
Many Boomer women have returned to school full-time to pursue degrees that they put on hold in their child-rearing years-or they engage in part-time education to take advantage of the intellectual stimulation that a classroom setting provides. Full-time college enrollment by older women is up 31% in the past decade.
There are many ways to keep lifelong learning going. Here are a few providers that are helping Boomer minds thrive:
This program was established in 1977 and offers no grades or degrees, but provides an idea-centric curriculum that changes all the time. Limited to 550 members to keep it a manageable and close community, HILR is a peer-learning membership organization that is self-governing. Today, there are more than 500 similar programs, and that number is growing. Even without degrees, HILR maintains a successful membership inspiring Boomers with a “love of learning.”
Founded in 1975 as Elderhostel, Road Scholar is the not-for-profit leader in educational travel for older adults. Unlike tour companies, Road Scholar offers in-depth and behind-the-scenes learning experiences for almost every interest and ability-history, culture, nature, music, outdoor activities, crafts, study cruises and so on. Road Scholar relies heavily on marketing to Boomer women, as their interview with Trudy Murray shows. Trudy shows just how important learning is for Boomers
“My husband and I love learning. We listen to Great Courses from the Teaching Company, we attend public lectures on astronomy, physics, law and music at the University of Toledo and sessions on art and archaeology at the Toledo Museum of Art, and we read books and magazines like Science News, Scientific American, Discovery and Smithsonian.”
This nonprofit organization of computer-using adults age 50 and older uses an operating model of “seniors teaching seniors.” Support is provided by many large organizations including Microsoft, Google, IBM, AT&T and Verizon-presumably, these organizations see marketing and sales opportunities with newly tech-savvy Boomers.
While its marketing messages contain some confusion, sometimes using the antiquated “seniors” and occasionally weaving in “older adult” and “Boomer” terminology, SeniorNet appears to be relatively popular. Latest reports from 2006 show $1.1mm in revenue through membership fees, advertising and donations.
Even Boomer women who find themselves financially adrift in the current economic turbulence are turning to education. Plus 50 is an initiative of community colleges to help engage and enroll Boomers, mainly for the purpose of helping them transition to new careers with new skillsets.
Plus 50’s marketing appeals to Boomer women with messages of optimism and hope-as seen in the graphic message “Re-inspired, not retired” on its student page. Testimonials from students like 51-year-old Zephia Reese are uplifting:
“In May of 2009, Reese was working as a human resource director and had to lay off many people. Then it was her turn. ‘Once I was laid off and saw how bad the economy was I decided it would be a good time to finally get that degree,’ said Reese.
Her decision would help her chart a new path in life. ‘When I started school I realized, I’m over 50 why would I want to train to go back to the same old grind? I’ve always worked 200 percent of my time. I’ve had to schedule appointments to have family time. I didn’t want to do that anymore.'”
These examples shows that Boomer women are eager to learn and seek out educational opportunities, especially when presented in a way that emphasizes community in the organization, like HILR, SeniorNet and Road Scholar. These organizations have had marketing success, and show that “lifelong learning” is an effecting marketing to Boomer women strategy. How are you going to incorporate these concepts in your organization?