A New Zealand story about an 82 year old retiree earning his PhD 60 years after graduating with his first degree got me thinking last week.

After retiring as a veterinarian, Dr. Dobbinson decided to go back to university to research an issue that he became particularly interested in – the welfare of animals when they are being transported. As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Dobbinson was very busy dealing with all sorts of day to day problems and emergencies. He did not have the time to devote much time to any one issue in particular. So he waited until he had the time and that was not until he retired.

At ISY, we aim to develop lifelong learners who will be a force for positive change in the world. ‘Lifelong’ means your entire life and Dr. Dobbinson certainly interpreted it this way. But I think that it is common for people to think that learning, other than maybe learning a new hobby, effectively stops once you retire. I think that is a real shame. 

Dr. Dobbinson’s story made me realize what an incredibly rich source of new knowledge retirees could be if we supported them to use their time to study rather than to expect them to take up gardening or golf. Imagine the difference that a university of students all with more than 40 years of experience in the subjects that they are studying could make to the world? It makes me wonder why governments and universities do not give scholarships to retirees like they give to high school leavers. Maybe some do?

I hope that some of our current ISY students head into retirement as keen to study and make a positive difference as they are now. And I hope that someone pays for them to make that difference!