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These Free Online Classes Are Teaching Seniors Amazing New Skills

5 minute read

By Ryan Pratt

Retirement is often seen as an ending, but it’s also a beginning. And for many seniors, that fresh start can present a challenge of figuring out what to do next. Luckily, a variety of online courses exist that promote lifelong learning. Plus, they’re free!

If you’re a retiree looking to find a new path, you might be interested to learn that there are many online courses which are designed to help seniors connect with their passions.

Senior Planet

Naturally, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) leads the way! The AARP offers a variety of classes on their Senior Planet website. Each day, new online content encourages seniors to stay fit with morning stretch, yoga, and aerobics routines.

There is also daily content aimed at teaching practical, new skills. Some online groups guide participants through the basics of new technology and job searches. There’s even a lecture on the fundamentals of Instagram, so you can follow your grandchildren on social media. Won’t that catch them off guard!

Shutterstock: Pereslavtseva Katerina

Academic Earth

Launched in 2009, Academic Earth was founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to a top-class education. As such, the website offers hundreds of courses from top universities, including Stanford, Yale, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

These videos, lectures, and course materials won’t earn you a degree, but their knowledge is 100% sourced from these institutions. Without paying tuition, you can learn about any subject that inspires this next stage of your life.

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MIT OpenCourseWare

Speaking of MIT, why not take virtually any class they offer… for free? MIT OpenCourseWare has made thousands of courses available in a bid to promote lifelong learning. Better yet, there’s no registration or enrollment necessary – just amazing classes that you can use to your advantage.

Covering MIT’s entire curriculum, this vast catalog of courses ranges from the undergraduate to graduate level. OpenCourseWare gives seniors full access to all of its knowledge on fine arts, sciences, mathematics, and literature – just to name a few subjects!



If the classes on Academic Earth are a bit too highbrow for your liking, Alison might be a better option. This educational resource collects thousands of courses from a greater range of subjects. Alongside academic courses in areas such as science, business, and marketing, Alison features Personal Development options that are more recreational in nature.

You can choose to become a painter, deal with mental health afflictions, or learn the basics of a new profession. Alison also gives you the option of paying for certificates and diplomas, or simply gaining the knowledge for free.

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If you’ve always wanted to get a better handle on computer programming, Codeacademy offers free courses for beginners and professionals. Over 45 million users have benefited from Codeacademy’s free services, although many users upgrade to Pro memberships at a fee.

Learning the fundamentals of coding (Java, Javascript, HTML, and SQL) can help you create your own website or app. What would you do with your own custom-built website? Would you start a business, or present your art? The possibilities are endless, and the skills are free to learn. Codeacademy offers great knowledge for these technologically driven times.


Harvard Open Learning Initiative

You can finally say you went to Harvard! The prestigious university’s Division of Continuing Education offers a variety of free online courses. Plus, you can find more free classes in Harvard’s Online Learning section.

Each of the university’s departments has classes on offer. Harvard’s range of subjects have something for everyone, from computer programming and business to art and the humanities. Keep in mind that some of Harvard’s choices charge a fee, which isn’t the case on MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Luckily, you can bypass the pricey options by looking under their strictly free content.



FutureLearn offers fully accredited courses and certificates, which are issued by established, partnering universities. Those credentials will cost you, if you’re looking to put the education on your resume. However, the education portion for most classes is free.

FutureLearn covers many of the same academic subjects we’ve outlined already, but it specializes in highly ranked language courses. Ever want to learn about the language and customs of Norway, Ireland, or China? Learning a new language is a workout for the brain with proven benefits, improving memory, concentration, and listening skills.



In fact, newly retired people often strive to learn a new language, so let’s look at the best place to do it for free! Like most of these websites, Duolingo isn’t specifically designed for seniors. Even so, it presents the most interactive and fun way to learn a second language.

What distinguishes Duolingo from most of the free classes we’ve discussed is that it allows you to take their exams. Getting tested may not sound like a perk, but it’s a critical way of gauging your knowledge and honing your skills. Duolingo uses your test results to personalize your teaching plan and address where you’re struggling.

Shutterstock: fizkes

Senior Fitness With Meredith

This free online hub contains a thorough library of workout videos for older adults. Keeping fit as you get older is tremendously important, which is why Meredith’s classes offer stretching, yoga, and cardio sessions.

A wide variety of beginner and advanced exercises are available. Seniors are also able to select routines that are ranked by workout type, skill level, and length. Senior Fitness With Meredith features inclusive workouts — including chair exercise videos — that address most physical limitations.

Shutterstock: Dragana Gordic

Live Your Best Life

Retirees have never had so much easy access to further learning. A computer and an internet connection can connect you to incredible opportunities, no matter where you live or what your pension looks like!

As the educational resources point the way to new careers and passions, the exercise websites can boost your mental and physical health. The combination of two or more of these free programs can radically enhance your well-being as you determine the next, exciting stage of your life!

Shutterstock: Prostock-studio

Ryan Pratt


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