It was Mark Twain who said Chicago “is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.”
Is it any surprise, then, that such a city of novelty is bursting with lifelong learning opportunities for seniors?
If you’re a lifelong learner in the Chicago area looking for your next challenge, these five ideas might just spark your imagination.
Ideas for How to Engage in Lifelong Learning in Chicago
1. Explore a Museum
If you’re a Chicago native, you likely already have a favorite museum. With new exhibits and fresh new takes on thought-provoking topics, though, the museums here mirror their parent city: they’re a constant source of novelty.
Give these Chicago-area museums a try to stimulate your brain on your next free Saturday:
- Museum of Science and Industry. With exhibits that range from engineering to history to space, there’s something here for all interests. The museum also offers special tours geared toward specific age groups, so if you’d like to schedule a tour, you have the option of including the grandkids or enjoying it with other like-minded adults.
- The Field Museum. Chicago boasts one of the largest natural history museums in the world with the Field Museum. It began with the famous “White City” of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and has continued to expand and thrive to this day.
- Chicago History Museum. If you’re a history buff, the Chicago History Museum is well worth a visit. Check and see what temporary exhibitions are currently on display so you can be sure to explore your favorite time periods and topics. Also, did you know the museum offers a Chicago history cruise on a 90-minute boat tour?
- The DuSable Museum of African American History. This museum was developed to preserve and interpret the experiences and achievements of people of African descent. There is a discounted ticket rate for seniors, as well as for Chicago residents.
- The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Children love the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, but there’s plenty for older adults to enjoy, too. There are several adult-oriented programs hosted at the museum, including morning bird walks, yoga in the butterfly haven, and educational talks.
- Adler Planetarium. Did space fascinate you as a child? Sometimes the best way to enrich our lifelong learning journey is to explore the topics we used to love when we were younger.
2. Immerse Yourself in Art
“Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it.”
Whether you’re an artist yourself or an appreciator of all things creative, a day spent poring over great works of art is a wonderful way to engage in lifelong learning and keep your mind sharp.
The city of Chicago is full of places to enjoy art, including:
- Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Filled with art that’s meant to provoke and inspire, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art to see innovative exhibits and performances.
- Art Institute of Chicago. Home to artwork from every corner of the globe, the Art Institute of Chicago offers a wide sampling of periods and styles.
- National Museum of Mexican Art. Enjoy an afternoon amidst the diversity of Mexican culture at this museum, which boasts a 10,000-piece permanent collection.
3. Reap the Benefits of Musical Expression
Chicago has a rich musical history that has provided a strong foundation for the thriving musical scene today. Here are a few ways for Chicago seniors to enjoy the benefits of listening to and making music:
- Enjoy Lyric Opera of Chicago. Since 1954, the Lyric stage has witnessed some of the finest singers and productions. If you are an opera fan or have always wanted to become one, there is no better place to start.
- Listen to a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a widely respected group with frequently sold-out performances. Join their admirers at an upcoming performance.
- Visit live music venues. Chicago is home to a staggering variety of live music venues. No matter what your personal tastes are, you’re sure to find one that suits you.
- Learn a new instrument. Have you always wanted to play an instrument? Do you already play one but would like to master another? Consider arranging for private lessons or take an adult music class in the Chicago area to challenge yourself with something new.
4. Take a Class
As you pursue continuous learning in your 60s and beyond, you may find yourself drawn to more structured avenues, such as college and university courses. Luckily, Chicago is home to some of the finest institutes of higher learning.
For example, many residents at Westminster Place, one of Presbyterian Homes’ Chicago area retirement living communities, enjoy taking classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at nearby Northwestern University.
Other area universities and colleges offer programs for older adults as well. For example, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers summer workshops open to adults and Loyola University has an online option that allows you to sign up for a single course (as opposed to pursuing a degree).
5. Learn a New Language
Learning a new language comes with many cognitive benefits and if you’re a traveler, it can come with practical benefits on your next trip.
Nowadays, there are many apps you can use to learn a new language right from your phone. However, nothing beats practicing with someone who speaks the language you’re trying to learn and Chicago has many places to do just that. View some of the best language classes in Chicago here if you’re ready to take on a second (or third) language.
Looking for Your Next Read?
We hope we’ve given you some ideas for the next step of your lifelong learning journey. If you’re looking for something to read next, we recommend our free Senior Living Options online guide. In it, you’ll learn about the different types of living options available.