Stanford Launches 'Second Career' Institute For Retirees, Because A Cruise Just Wouldn't Be Stimulating Enough

After a successful lifelong career, what more could one want than to... go back to school? Well, this is the mentality employed by Stanford's new Distinguished Careers Institute, which is, basically, a school for retirees. But not just any retiree will qualify for the highly selective program — it is, after all, Stanford. Instead, the university will seek "proven leaders," who after spending 20 to 30 years in the job market, are looking to "mold satisfying second careers."

These days, careers (and lives) have become longer and more fruitful. Consequently, Stanford hopes to capitalize on the golden years: Rather than allowing these hard-working individuals to kick back and relax, they'll instead be chosen to embark upon a second-tier journey of "personal renewal, intellectual exploration, physical recalibration and societal engagement." Think a cruise around the world would be a better trip? Think again!

Institute director Phil Pizzo says, "Retirement in the traditional sense is not really healthy." (Hmm, OK.) Apparently, the best thing to do for a group of 50-70 year olds is to throw them back into a time of constant academic competition, social awkwardness (er, exploration,) and alcohol-fueled partying.

The Distinguished Careers Institute will admit its first class of experienced job-havers in next January, whereupon they will have the chance to "swap experiences and insights with their generation's younger classmates." The Stanford Report, which calls this new program one of transformation, notes that the aspiring retirees selected "will be able to audit Stanford classes and courses offered throughout campus." The students will also be given a faculty advisor to navigate the tricky waters of the university experience, especially after having left it for several decades.

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While many individuals in the later stages of their careers certainly return to academia to teach, returning as a student is far less common, and has never been attempted at this scale. Pizzo notes that while "We know what role universities play in early life and in stimulating the first phase of careers" they are unclear as to "their role in mid- to later-career life transitions and journeys." We're pretty sure there's a reason for that.

In any case, the Institute is certainly an interesting development in the field of education, one that is almost exclusively geared towards the younger generation. However, a study conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found that 75 percent of workers surveyed said that they would like to work as long as possible, when asked to describe their plans for work during retirement. Of this 75 percent, more than half say that it is because they enjoy their work.

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Of course, just because today's potential retirees want to keep working doesn't necessarily mean that they want to return to school. Still, perhaps Stanford is banking on the appeal of its prestige and participants' access to all seven of their world-class schools, including their famous business and medical schools.

As Pizzo said, “Life should be filled with new journeys and new opportunities, and shouldn’t be affixed to traditional stopping points that are no longer relevant.” And let's be honest - going back to college at 70 is about as new a journey as you can take.