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Planning Retirement Online

Practical Adult Education

Adult education doesn't have to be academic in nature. Many people want to learn new skills as they get older and this keeps the brain just as active as studying through books and on the computer. Retirement, in particular, provides a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and improve our all-round abilities. You might want to learn something that is classified as 'Arts and Crafts', you may want to improve your DIY skills, get better on the computer or improve your musical or sporting prowess. Whatever interests you, there is the opportunity to do so.

Guide to 'Adult Education'. Content Links

Arts and Crafts

Many people want to learn something new that can be classed as 'Arts and Crafts' and there are numerous opportunities to do so. Whether it's a country craft that we've always been interested in,  making something such as jewellery or learning one of the soft skills such as embroidery, the opportunities are there.

To get started on one of the soft skills, go to our Guide to Arts and Crafts. It provides help in getting started with knitting, cross stitch and tapestry. There are many good websites for these things, too, which have links to them from our Guide. If you are keen to learn embroidery, have a look at the Quilting Gallery, which, of course, covers quilting, too.

For other soft skills, just Google the craft that you are interested in and then explore the options until you find something that suits you.

DIY Skills

If you want to improve your practical skills in the DIY area, the problem is which one to look at first! You can do woodwork (including wood turning and carving), bricklaying, plumbing and so on. Learning any of these things will keep your brain active as well as allowing you to improve your range of skills.

Again, if you look on the internet you will find numerous organisations that will help you. For example, there is an organisation called Able Skills that run courses of varying lengths in most of the DIY skills - bricklaying, electrical, carpentry, plumbing and so on. However, cast your net wider and see what Google has to offer.

If you're interested in wood turning, then our Guide to Arts and Crafts (same hot link) will help, whilst you can started with wood carving by going on a course run by The Rocking Horse Shop. All these things can be classed as 'adult education' because we are learning new things - in this case, practical skills.

There will also be courses in these practical topics available through your local adult education provision. So Google 'adult education in...(the name of your local council)' and you will be able to search for details. Some areas will have a wider range than others but there will almost certainly be something available for you.

Computer Skills

Improving computer skills is probably the most common area in which people over 50 wish to participate in continuing education. There is a vast range of courses and facilities through which we can do this. For example, if you go to the adult education section on your local council website, there will be details of how to improve your skills. If you can't find anything on your council website, ring them or go to see them and ask what courses are available.

There is also the Government-sponsored learndirect, through which you can improve your computer skills. You can even get a qualification through it, should you wish to. Many libraries run computer courses and the Government, through its website, provides a list of computer courses in your area. This page will also allow you to search for many other types of courses, too.

The remit of libraries now requires them to provide IT facilities. As part of this, many of them run IT/Computer courses, which are usually free. So if you want to get started or improve your skills on the computer, pop down to your local library and see what they have to offer.

For those of you who would like to take advantage of free, online courses to improve your computer skills, go to: computerbeginners. In spite of its name, this website also offers courses in other things too, that you can develop online, including photography and home video making. You might find something interesting here, too: e-careers.

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Many people take up music in later life and either join a choir or learn a musical instrument. This is a great way to get some 'adult education' and to keep the brain active. There will be local music teachers in your area and a good way to find one is to go to your local music shop and ask for a list of them. If you're a bit more ambitious, go to this page on to find a list of adult music courses in your area.

For an excellent resource website, for whichever instrument you might want to learn, go to It will provide a list of useful books, websites, hints, tips and advice for your chosen instrument.


Once they retire, many people take the opportunity to either take up or improve their existing skills in a sport. The most popular are probably golf, tennis, badminton and bowls.

If you join a sports club there will be the opportunity to improve your skills and the club may well provide specific lessons - many bowls clubs, for example, do special sessions for beginners and teach them how to play the game. If golf is your thing, then every club has a professional with whom you can have lessons (which you have to pay for, of course!) If you want to be even more extravagant, you can go on a residential golf course. Click here for an example to see the kind of thing that is available. Simply Google 'golf lessons' and you will see the whole range that is open to you.

Whichever sport you wish to learn or improve at, finding a local club is the best way to discover the best way to go about learning the game. You can also go to the website of the national organisation for that sport to get help. For example, go to Badminton England and you will find a 'Club Finder' as well as a wealth of other information.

Adult education covers a whole variety of activity; learning something practical or sporty keeps the brain just as active as learning an academic subject. Now read the rest of this Guide to find out how else you can do some adult education.

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This Guide to Adult Education is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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