In the book Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, Mary Catherine Bateson addresses the fact that the older, “mature” population in our society are more likely to be engaged and excited about issues which transcend themselves. Such enthusiasm is priceless; especially when we are witnessing the growing trend of retirees turning to continuing education in the form of university sponsored lifelong learning programs as an engagement activity of choice.
However, there is a lack of investment in community-based educational programming for older adults. Many cannot afford to pay fees of university affiliated programs, so they instead go to community centers, churches and synagogues that offer free adult education. But the traditional focus of these programs is generally health based, self-help or peer-led instead of university-level classes.
Enter programs such as the Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI). Part of the NSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, the LLI provides academic programs promoting intellectual stimulation, physical well-being and social growth to enrich the lives of its members and the community. These educational, humanities-based programs reach hundreds of adults on campus and at 13 residential communities throughout South Florida.
The big “but” however, is that LLI programs only reach people and organizations that can afford the minimal lecture costs. There are no real funding options available to assist programs like this in providing free programs for these information-thirsty populations.
I have seen the excitement and enthusiasm of older students. Their thirst for knowledge is evident in their focus, participation and constant prodding for even more challenging lectures and lecturers. If lifelong-learning programs were funded and expanded throughout communities unable to afford the costs, dedicated learners could provide an inspirational example and support system for younger generations, which in turn might infuse energy into our shaky educational system.
LLI is hosting its free bi-annual Welcome Week on Jan. 6-9 in NSU’s University Park Plaza at 3424 S. University Drive in Davie. For more information, call 954-262-8471 or visit www.nova.edu/lifelonglearning.
Linda E. Maurice, director, Lifelong Learning Institute, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale