longlife learning

The Emergence of Long Life Learning

“The Emergence of Long Life Learning”- Our White Paper

“Wholly unprepared, they embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young generations to a knowledge of a world and of life? No, there are none. […] that is not quite true. Our religions were always such schools in the past, but how many people regard them as such today? How many of us older persons have really been brought up in such a school and prepared for the second half of life, for old age, death, and eternity?”

Carl Jung’s quote, from nearly a century ago, is even more relevant today. It highlights our need for a new kind of educational institution, an institution that allows mid-lifers to revisit their truths and ideals, and reflect on what it means to live a long life – which is what we’re starting to refer to as “long life learning.” As such, midlife education should not only focus on the acquisition of knowledge, but it needs to be learner-centric in supporting the cultivation of wisdom and well-being.

We’ve gotten the quantity part of the longevity equation right, adding 30 years in the 20th century. It’s now time to get the quality part right so that people can live a life as deep and meaningful as it is long. This is why my co-author Ingo Rauth and I have used the extra time afforded by the pandemic to do considerable research on the history of midlife education. The result is a white paper that has received positive peer review from nearly a dozen academics who specialize in longevity, aging, and the psychology of midlife.

While the paper is moderately geeky, we think you’ll find it accessible especially if you’re curious about why we created the Modern Elder Academy and why “midlife wisdom schools” are essential in an era when we’re living longer, power is moving younger, and the world is changing faster. We believe that this white paper and what we do at MEA are a starting point for helping give new meaning to midlife and to make aging aspirational again.

To make midlife education accessible and help millions of mid-lifers transition in times of COVID-19 and other life-altering changes, we need disruptive leaders who are willing to develop the policies and educational institutions needed. While the task is huge, we have seen higher education respond to the needs of the era before. For example, the G.I. Bill, post-World War II, catalyzed higher education and ushered in the middle class as we know it.

To join the conversation, you can read our white paper here. And, we’ve just set up a website where you can hear from some experts on why “long life learning” is an important new niche development under the category of lifelong learning.

– Chip Conley

This article first appeared in Chip Conley’s Wisdom Well blog