Even better the second time

By John Nadeau | May 17, 2012

Maybe the question is, “What is the legal basis for foreign policy?” The instructor is a retired American diplomat.

Or maybe the issue is, “In what way is postmodernism a philosophical reaction to modernism?” The instructor is a former telephone company executive.

Or maybe the discussion focuses on, “What is the best definition of film noir?” The instructor is a retired chemical research director.

Regardless of the subject, the scene will be pretty much the same.

About 25 people of retirement age will be in a classroom at Edmonds Community College for a two-hour session.

It will be characterized by lively discussion, controversy, humor, insight, and occasionally wisdom.

During the break and after the class, the conversations will spill out into the corridor and then onto the parking lot.

The class will be one of about 30 offered each term by the Creative Retirement Institute, perhaps better known as CRI.

There are no examinations, grades, or credits, and the courses are open to everyone, regardless of academic background.

Faculty members are typically retired instructors or non-academics who have special knowledge to share.

CRI belongs to the approximately 300 older adults who participate in it each year.

Many pay dues to become members so that they can elect officers and work within committees to provide stimulating educational opportunities.

The Elderhostel Institute Network, an organization that serves older adults, reports there are about 500 institutions like CRI across North America.

Other similar programs, not affiliated with a college or university, may number 300 to 500.

The upshot is that the future of lifelong learning programs appears very secure.

“All the research we have done shows that people don’t want to do nothing,” says Tammy Erickson, author of “Retire Retirement.”

Especially not for years on end. Today, the average 65-year-old can expect to live another 15-20 years.

Take a cruise, play some golf, clean out the garage – and then what?

“We keep telling people to try us,” says Lynn Lagreid, CRI’s program coordinator, “for the classes and the social component as well.”

Apparently, many do.

“Each year, we typically enroll more than 150 new participants,” she adds.

When CRI began in the 1993-94 academic year, students paid for 659 classes.

In 2010-11, the most recent  year for which we have complete figures, students paid for 2,150 classes.

Increasingly, stereotypes of older adults are being discarded as they embrace new social inventions, and the lifelong learning concept is just such an invention.

The spring term courses at CRI are now winding down, but the fall term course brochure will be ready in late July.

Why not get your name on the mailing list now? The phone number is 425-640-1830.

School can be wonderful the second time around.


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