“Why don’t you go back to school so you can get a good job.”  This from my doting 90-year-old father who is delusionally thinking his “little girl” is still in her twenties instead of a fifty-something grandmother – plus he still likes to tell me how to run my life.

Although I’m a proponent of continuing education and life long learning, returning to the classroom is not in my plans at the present time, but there are many who have different thoughts.

Midlife Career Change

The most common reason for adults returning to school is so they can find a new career.  Some people went straight into the workforce after high school or married early and started a family.  Some were made redundant from well-established employment or forced into early retirement.

Related: How A Career Change Improved My Life

Whether older adults are preparing for a forced or voluntary career change, or taking classes that were not previously available to them, universities are reporting a growing number of mature students enrolling in their undergraduate programs.

It’s Not That Easy

The top barriers for returning to school are financial constraints and family responsibilities.  Many older learners can’t qualify for government tuition assistance if their family income is too high.

They may have to dip into their savings, take on a part-time job and/or sacrifice such things as family vacations and restaurant meals.

It would be smart for universities to provide additional support for the specific challenges mature students and grads will face.

Is It Worth It?

Despite highly marketable skills and experience, transitioning into a new field requires starting in an entry position.

High expectations may find older workers unprepared for the difficulties they might encounter with potential employers.  Opportunities for mature graduates can be more limited than we might be led to believe.

It might take longer and more effort to find the right niche.

Age Discrimination in the Workplace

“People see my resume and think I’m overqualified.  They’re skeptical when I say I’m willing to start at the bottom of the ladder because they think I’ll leave if something better comes along.  Experience works against you.”

It’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, but it is difficult to prove.

Related: Why A Career Break Is A Great Investment

A mature age in a recent graduate makes some employers nervous and they may be reluctant to hire older workers.  They like to recruit employees in accordance with their own image, who will “fit in” and not seem intimidating to younger workers.

Some objections to older workers are:

  • Higher salary expectations.
  • Slower to pick up new information and procedures.
  • Lack of mobility.
  • Lack of adaptability.
  • Higher costs for benefits such as health care.
  • Can’t spend time networking due to family commitments.

Workers need to convince employers that they don’t fit these stereotypes.

Future Employment and the Job Market

According to a TD Economist report, Canadians age 60 and over account for about one third of all recent net job gains.  Employment among the 70 plus crowd increased 37%.

Related: Turning 60 – Some Things To Consider

Unfortunately, most of the job gains are concentrated in the service industries with the biggest category being retail. (Been there, done that, don’t want to repeat the experience.)

Although starting a new career path may be daunting for those over 50, they’ll be hired if they have the right skill set and have experience that managers are looking for.  There are still opportunities.

It’s important to acquire current skills and keep a positive attitude.  Use current industry buzzwords to show you’re up to date.  Seek out companies that hire older workers.

Take special care in drafting your resume.  Highlight your experience while downplaying your age by using a skills-based, rather than an age-based, resume.


The constantly changing workplace and increasing longevity of workers is providing more choices for the older worker.  We are in the process of redefining aging and retirement.

Related: Why Baby Boomers Aren’t Prepared For Retirement

Take the plunge.  Focus on the things you want most of all.  There’s nothing wrong with reaching for your dreams as long as you’re aware of what the realities will be along the way.

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