"The doors of wisdom are never shut." Little did Benjamin Franklin know, when he uttered those words some 250 years ago, how prophetic they would be. Today, wisdom is indeed available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Franklin’s open door is the Internet, the Information Super Highway.

And what a highway it is! Where else can you learn any time of the day or night? Where else can you learn independent of distance, time and place? Where else can you learn anything you want? Thanks to the incredible growth of the Internet, anything and everything we want to know can be found with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. Everyone, no matter what their age, is getting involved. In my family my three-year old grandson already knows his way around a mouse and my 85 year-old mother is learning fast.

Statistics bear this usage out. According to IDC’s Digital Marketplace Model and Forecast1 nearly a quarter of the world’s population (some 1.4 billion people) - will use the Internet on a regular basis in 2008, and that number is expected to surpass 1.9 billion or 30% of the world’s population in 2012. They go on to say that the most popular activities today are searching the web, finding information for personal use, using internet email, accessing news and sports information and accessing financial or credit information. Online learning is a big part of that usage.

In fact, online learning is growing by leaps and bounds. Type “online learning” into Google and you’ll get some 62,300,000 hits! According to Lewis2, over 75% of colleges and universities in the U.S. offer online degree programs, with online degrees as respected as “on the ground” degrees.

As valuable as online learning is for earning college credits, however, the Internet’s real value may be in how it will enable people long out of school to continue learning for the sheer fun of learning. Think of the Internet as a giant public library.

For instance, one night my husband and I watched the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” We had never heard of John Nash, the protagonist portrayed by Russell Crowe in the movie. How interesting and informative it was to go online after the movie and read all about Nash, an extraordinary man, and his heroic struggles to find his place in life. Talk about instant knowledge at your fingertips. Now, whenever we see a movie about someone who actually lived, we immediately go to the computer to learn the “real story.” It’s a fun and easy way to keep our brains stimulated.

In fact, numerous studies have shown that keeping your brain challenged is key to helping maintain its health. Thanks to a computer and a hookup to the Internet, you have all the tools you really need to help ensure this happens. And it’s not weather dependent, or available only if you are up and about. You can go online from the comfort of home, at your own pace, and in your own time, no matter what your physical capability. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Whether you want to learn for college credit, or to upgrade job skills, or to learn for the sheer joy of learning, the Internet gives you that opportunity. You are exposed to a wealth of knowledge, centralized in one place and available after a short online search. Using the Internet expands our intellectual, social and spiritual horizons. It can even help us physically if we find and use health information that inspires us to get moving.

So think of lifelong learning through Internet use as a proactive approach for overall personal development and growth. Thanks to the Internet the process of maintaining an active and youthful mind, body and spirit as we age is easier than its ever been before.

"For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest." …Hasidic Saying

1. Marketing Vox: More People Using Internet in New Ways and Embracing Web 2.0 (2008), Retrieved July 23, 2008 from
www.markeetingvox.com/more-people-using-internet-in-new-ways-and-and-emb... -
2. Lewis, Regina; Earning a Degree Online. (2003) Retrieved July 21, 2008 from,

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed., is the author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years, published by Sentient Publications in Boulder, Colorado. (ISBN: 1-59181-047-7).

Merz Nordstrom also directs the Elderhostel Institute Network for Elderhostel, Inc., North America's largest educational travel organization for older adults. She offers counseling to new start-up programs, provides resources and facilitates communication among more than 380 Lifelong Learning programs across the U.S. and Canada, and develops links between these programs and similar programs in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. She has also worked closely with developers establishing lifelong learning programs in Japan.

Nancy directs the Lifelong Learning Campus of Computer School for Seniors, an Internet learning site (www.cs4seniors.com) and blogs and writes columns for several online sites that focus on adults over the age of 50. These sites include www.eons.com - www.blifetv.com -www.egenerations.com – www.successtelevision.com –www.selfgrowth.com and www.growingbolder.com. She is a regular columnist for Boomer Magazine, and maintains a web site at www.learninglater.com that provides information for the general public.

Merz Nordstrom has been interviewed extensively by the media about the learning in retirement movement. Articles have appeared in many newspapers and periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. She has done numerous radio interviews, local TV shows, and was a guest on the CNN Financial News TV show "Your Money."

A dedicated lifelong learner, Nancy returned to school after the unexpected death of her first husband, and at age 53, earned a M.Ed. in Adult Education. As a later-life student she became aware of the opportunities and challenges facing older adults, and has dedicated herself to the belief that lifelong learning is both empowering and life-affirming, regardless of age.