Learning shouldn’t stop as age increases

By John Nadeau | Oct 18, 2012

Think about Albert Einstein, Claude Monet, Arturo Toscanini, and Hume Cronyn.

What did they have in common?

Each was an achiever who used his mind and talent well into his later years.

Older adults don’t have to be geniuses, however, to embrace self-fulfillment and create an exciting life.

Studies conducted in the ‘90s, a decade of pioneering brain research, concluded a stimulated mind promotes a healthy brain. Scientists at Harvard, Duke, and the Johns Hopkins University among others proved this point.

Here in Snohomish County, a lifelong learning environment like the Creative Retirement Institute (CRI) at Edmonds Community College can help older adults explore their worlds in many ways.

Programs like these, offered at hundreds of colleges and universities, are part of a national trend.

Besides offering college-level courses, they share another important objective: enabling new personal relationships.

“Our classes encourage people to stay connected,” says Dr. Connie Corley of the California State University in Los Angeles.

“Everyone has something to look forward to,” she adds. “No one has to experience loneliness.”

Actually, many authorities insist that the social component of these programs is their most important attribute.

It certainly was at the lifelong learning institute, organized by a retired medical doctor, at Washington University in St. Louis, where I attended classes before moving to the Northwest.

Yes, the doctor allowed, the courses on the great philosophers and current events have definite value, but the greatest benefits to students come during the coffee break conversations with their peers.

“There’s  nothing like listening to or taking part in a stimulating discussion where there’s a free exchange of ideas,” I remember him saying.

CRI’s social committee, chaired by Mary Bates, Edmonds, and Susan Renhard, Lake Forest Park, is an integral part of the program at EdCC.

It organizes three luncheons, one before each term, on the college campus. Featured are a buffet, a talk by a local celebrity, and plenty of time for interaction.

By the way, the committees, open to all members, are a great way to meet people. Besides the social committee, there are groups to manage finances, increase membership, develop curriculum, and assist with audio-visual class presentations.

To join one, all members have to do is show up.

Though there are no summer classes, CRI members also enjoy a “summer  social” – not quite a picnic – every year.

All this can be especially appealing to newcomers to the area. As people age, they tend to move to new places, leaving behind a network of friends and relatives.

Engaging in an organization like CRI can help new arrivals find others who share similar interests.

The positive results can be huge.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said it: “People do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”

To learn more about CRI, phone 425-640-1830 or visit the  web at www.edcc.edu/cri.

Enrollment is open to all adults, regardless of academic background

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