Why Back-to-School Season is for Seniors of all Ages

Tidbits from the Sandwich Generation #16, How Continuing Educations Courses Rejuvenate Older Adults…EndFragment

Like many back-to-schoolers, Ed April is preparing to return to classes. An eager student, he has already read through his required text on the Spanish American War. In just a few weeks, Ed will join with the thousands of students on the campus of Northwestern University, as he heads into his ninth year at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Northwestern University (OLLI). Though Ed is more than 55 years older than the average college student, he shares that returning to campus each year for continuing education keeps his mind sharp.

As Ed’s daughter, I can attest to his enthusiasm for lifelong learning. For a summer class on the study of evolution, my father took himself on a field trip via airplane to the Natural History Museum in Washington DC. When he wasn’t visiting with his granddaughter (my niece, also a Northwestern student!), he was snapping photos of dinosaurs and other ancient fossils to share with his classmates back on campus.

For most of the years as an OLLI student, the 77-year-old “advanced collegian” has been a course leader. This semester the retired Chicago area radiologist is co-leading a class with three fellow seniors. Ed shares that one of the reasons he loves adult education courses is that grades are not a factor and that learning is for learning’s sake.

While OLLI students may cross the campus a little more slowly than the rest of the student body, they answer questions in class just as quickly-and with a bit more thought. Studies confirm Ed’s statements, with current research showing that the use of vocabulary is preserved as we age, and the use of reason strengthens as we grow older.

Like my dad, 75-year-old Elise Schilowitz of Maitland is a life-long-learner. The returning student at The Learning Institute for Elders at UCF shares that the two-year waiting list was well worth the delay. Each Tuesday morning from September through May, she attends a rotating lecture series on a topic selected by and for the membership, who are 55 years and up.

Elise notes that the keynote speakers make just about any topic fascinating, and that she leaves each class with an overflow of new information. One of the most interesting speaker groups was the team of UCF students who developed a “bionic” limb through the university’s school of engineering. Now that she’s “in”, Elise plans on attending for as long “she can drive”, with hopes that husband, Henry, will become a fellow classmate once he retires.

My husband, Tony, recently registered to enter The Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning (RCLL) at the Hamilton Holt School at Rollins College in Winter Park, geared to students who are 50 plus. He is looking forward to the innovative and enriching programs offered to “Senior Tars”, known as the STARS program. One of the few perks of turning 50 next month is that I, too, will be eligible for continuing ed. Hope to see you on campus soon!

Looking to add some class to your days? Continuing education near you…

Tidbits from the Sandwich Generation is a series of blogs by Pamela Ruben, Jewish Pavilion

Marketing Director, about managing the multi-generations. For no cost help for issues pertaining to older adults contact the Orlando Senior Help Desk at 407-678-9363 or visit www.orlandoseniorhelpdesk.org.

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