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Jo Rimmer

You’d think by age 86 you’d done all the learning you could do. Not so for Jo Rimmer. Keeping his mind active, having an interest to fill his days, and staying connected are among the benefits of studying in later years, says the Bachelor of Arts graduate.


Lifelong learning is all part of the process of living. If your heart’s in it, get on and do it!

Taking lifelong learning to a new degree

Jo Rimmer is proof there's no limit to life-long learning. Granted, he wasn't too sure if he was up to the task of academic study when he first enrolled as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) distance student eight years ago.

But he found that doing one paper per semester was just the right amount of work. He surprised himself at being able to develop the self-discipline required to meet assignment deadlines, gaining an admirable A-minus average over his degree.

When he started, it had been at least 60 years since he last handed in an academic assignment. English by birth, Jo studied law at Oxford University in his early 20s but decided not to pursue law as a career, working as a marketer for Unilever London then re-locating in 1962 to New Zealand with the company.

When he returned to New Zealand in 2007, he was searching for "something to do which would keep my mind active and usefully occupy my spare time," he says.

"I was not going to be able to fit in lectures and with other commitments to my time I wanted to be free to study when it suited me. Massey provided the answer with distance learning. It was just what I wanted."

Study, he believes, has definitely helped to maintain his brain power. And as a politics major, his degree has had an influence. It "changed my thinking. I learned a lot of things that were new to me. It's broadened my mind, and given me new windows to look through."

"I'm a right-winger economically and soft-right socially," says Jo, who finds it rewarding to be able to draw on his reading and studies to share a knowledgeable opinion. "Quite often things come up in conversation and I find I have something worthwhile to contribute."

With more interactive online learning tools and lectures via video, he felt connected and enjoyed the sense of belonging to a community of learners – "like being part of a club" – despite being roughly three times as old as most in the club, he quips.

"I hope my story will inspire others to follow, because there must be so many people of my age and even 20 years younger who are in the position of finding time on their hands and want to keep their minds usefully occupied."

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