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Back to School Time?

By Tom Lowrey, Senior Services Education Assistant

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”—Dr.Seuss

You can often see Adora Crook at the Trailside Activity & Dining Center in Midland. She’s a regular at Lunchtime Learners and Tuesdays with TED, and has taken several classes offered here. She always brightens the room with her positive energy, and she is always very patient with your northern accent!

One thing that you’ll immediately recognize in Adora is her thirst for knowledge. “Lifelong Learning is a subject dear to my heart,” she says. “I avail myself of every chance I get. Exercising the mind is a wondrous adventure!”

What is Lifelong Learning? Canadian writer Dave Hood defines it this way: “It is self-motivated, voluntary, and continuous learning throughout one’s life—an ongoing quest for knowledge and skills, whether or not a person is in an educational setting.” He goes on to say, “Unfortunately, many people stop learning once they graduate from high school, college, or university. They never read a book or learn another useful skill again. I believe that everyone should be lifelong learners. It makes for a more interesting and enjoyable life. Furthermore, it enhances well-being.

“How does a person embrace lifelong learning? You don’t achieve it by watching reruns of sitcoms or reality television, such as The Bachelor. Travel can be a good method, providing you don’t see the sights by bus or spend your time in a five-star hotel next to the pool. You learn by immersion in new people, new culture, new places, new experiences, education, new types of work, where you acquire new skills and expand your knowledge and polish your expertise. Instead of becoming like a moldy loaf of bread that sits on the counter, you learn.”

“We are very fortunate in our area to have the myriad opportunities we do,” says Adora. “There are classes, workshops, day trips and golf cart tours driven by very knowledgeable folks.” Here are some suggestions, with Adora’s comments in italics:

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Saginaw Valley State University is a member-based organization that offers non-credit educational programs and travel opportunities for the over-50 population. “Frequently one of their classes evolves into an interest group.”

At SVSU, Ryder Center memberships are available for seniors 62+ for $250/year (vs. $400 for general public). Additionally, OLLI members can purchase the same membership for $100/year.

The Great Courses: The best of the best college-level courses on CD, DVD and Digital formats. Over 500 expertly-produced courses by professors chosen for their ability to teach. Some classes offered as low as $40. “They are very good for at-home (treadmill time) learning.”

Art Classes are offered at Creative 360, MCFTA, and Senior Services.

The Historical Society and Grace A. Dow Library have speaker presentations. The library also has computer classes, as does Senior Services.

The Greater Midland Community Center has wellness presentations, and Mahjongg and Euchre are also taught and played.

Chippewa Nature Center has many programs, including the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival.

Dow Gardens has a Know & Grow seminar in February, along with several other events and workshops throughout the year.

If you are a resident of the Delta College district, 60 years of age or older, you may register for courses at 50% of the current tuition rate (excludes fees). “Some colleges also offer audited classes. You will need to contact them to find out cost and if restrictions apply.”

Adora notes that Volunteer Opportunities at places like Senior Services and the Little Forks Conservancy also end up being great learning experiences!

And, as mentioned above, Lunchtime Learners, Tuesdays with TED, and other educational programs at the Senior Services Dining & Activity Centers.

And don’t forget reading is an easy way to learn new facts and concepts related to a particular topic, as well as learn to write and develop your vocabulary. “It’s also one of the best methods of learning,” says Dave Hood, “especially if you are not enrolled in college or university. Read books of interest or books on what you are passionate about. In fact, it is the easiest way to embrace lifelong learning…it has enabled me to escape the drudgery of daily life. I rarely become bored, because I’m always learning something new.”

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~ W.B. Yeats