Older adults are exercising their mental muscles by returning to the college classroom, but it’s not school in the traditional sense. Anyone old enough to qualify for an AARP card can sign up for the Senior Programs at Chesapeake College. Since 2001, each semester the Institute for Adult Learning (or IAL) has offered classes, luncheon discussions, and special events to adults 50 and older.
IAL courses do not follow the usual college routine. Participants don’t have to worry about earning credits, being graded, or meeting any course prerequisites. They choose classes to learn something new or to improve on what they already know or just to enjoy exploring the subject matter.
“IAL is a membership-based program,” says Anne Slater, Director, Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Training, which includes the Institute for Adult Learning program.
Adults 50 and older become members for the semester, paying a membership fee of $60, which allows them to participate in IAL activities, including any classes they wish to join during that semester. If seniors don’t want to take classes, they can pay $25 for an associate membership that entitles them to a reduced price for outings, luncheons, and social events, but does not include courses.
Members are encouraged to propose classes, to become instructors, or to serve on the Council that helps manage the Institute. “We are always looking for new members for our Council, who help keep classes going and market the program,” Slater says, “and we offer a wide variety of classes.” This variety provides many options to help older adults to stay mentally sharp.
“Current Events are taught every semester,” she adds. Other popular choices include history topics and Contemporary Fiction as well as an American Musical Class focused on a particular artist or genre.
This spring IAL members can select history classes such as studying about the Horn of Africa or exploring U.S. History 1865-1918. They can sign up for computer classes, or they can choose photography classes such as Digital SLR-Beyond the Basics. In other courses they will learn about geology or participate in Great Decisions seminars. If they want to exercise their bodies, they can attend Healthy Living for Older Adults and practice yoga and zumba. In Better Health and Nutrition, they will educate themselves about ways to eat that will help keep them fit.
IAL instructors come from many fields. “We have a lot of instructors who return each semester,” Slater states, “and many have taught college level courses.”
A brochure will be available in early January listing all the spring semester offerings. “On January 19 at 1:00 P.M. we will hold a Showcase of Classes for anybody to come to hear samplings of what’s being offered,” Slater remarks. Anyone wishing to attend the Showcase needs to R.S.V.P. to her by January 16.
Besides the diversity of course selections, IAL members will have two field trips this spring: one to Adkins Arboretum and another to Layton’s Chance Winery in Dorchester County. Another popular activity is the Brown Bag Luncheons that occur on Mondays when the Current Events classes are running. Participants stay for lunch and continue their classroom discussions, and anyone can join in the conversation.
All of the IAL classes meet on the Wye Mills campus. However, Chesapeake College also brings courses for adults 60 and older to facilities away from the main campus.
“A variety of different classes run in senior centers in the five counties, in medical adult day care centers, and in retirement communities,” Slater states. “These are not part of the Institute for Adult Learning, and charges vary, but they are very affordable.”
To find out more about the Institute for Adult Learning at Chesapeake College, go to www.chesapeake.edu/continuing_ed/ial/.
Easton Savvy next will visit the Talbot County Senior Center at Brookletts Place to find more ways for older adults to stay mentally fit.