The Emergence of Long Life Learning

This white paper co-written by Chip Conley and Ingo Rauth, Ph.D. is intended to be a conversation starter. A starting point for educators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs who seek to develop programs and schools that help us live a life that is as deep and meaningful as it is long. By reading this paper, you may be taking your own step toward giving new meaning to midlife; a time crowded with all kinds of transitions, some personal, some professional.

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The Emergence of Long Life Learning

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Why Long Life Learning? Why Now?

“Long life learning” is an emerging educational segment focused on helping those in midlife and beyond cultivate more of a sense of purpose and legacy, adaptability, and resilience while maximizing well-being, all based upon respected social science and adult development theories on aging. These new educational programs foster communities of like-minded peers who cultivate, harvest, and share wisdom with one another. As such, graduates of these programs – who are often fifty years old and up – are better prepared to live lives that are as deep and meaningful as they are long.

With increased longevity and a more volatile world, a growing number of people are bewildered by the middle of their adult life. They are advised that lifelong learning will help them compete in an increasingly competitive workplace, but most lifelong learning programs focus little on the unique challenges and needs experienced by those navigating midlife. Mid-lifers’ sense of irrelevance is accentuated in an era when organizational power is accelerating to younger people.

This paper illuminates the following insights:

  • We’re living longer, power is moving younger, and the world is changing faster. This has led to people in the middle of their lives feeling confused and irrelevant.
  • Midlife transitions are normal, yet we have no schools, tools, or social support for this. 
  • Lifelong learning is worthwhile but doesn’t address the unique needs of those in midlife.
  • What’s foundational to midlife learning is to create a life that’s as deep and meaningful as it is long.
  • The second half of our lives is often defined by our search for purpose, spirituality, wellness, and community.