By Marge Wyngaarden

Having founded an ILR at Bergen Community College, Paramus, NJ in 1999 and then having moved to a retirement community, this correspondent thought that the learning experiences could be replicated in her new home.

The Elderhostel Institute Network in Boston was open to the idea that ILRs at retirement villages were the wave of the future. They were most helpful in providing by e-mail a list of requirements. It took more persuasion to convince management that it could and should be done and that it was different from any other educational endeavor on the premises. For awhile, this writer’s mantra was – If you don’t commit the resources, you can’t have a program.

With a current population of over 1,000 and the anticipation of double that within the next year, it seemed that there would plenty of students and lecturers.

An advisory board was created. Several members were familiar with the concept from their previous homes.

To determine if there was enough interest, several free lectures were offered on a Sunday afternoon in late Spring. Sunday was chosen because of the complaint – “There’s nothing to do around here on Sunday afternoons.”

Notices were distributed to each apartment, with an attendance tear off to be returned to the office involved in these activities. Sixty-three residents signed up for “Five Women who Ran for the U. S. Presidency,” a lecture given by the ILR organizer. Sixty-eight residents registered for “The Da Vinci Code,” given by a resident monsignor.

Over 120 people showed up for the first lecture and over 140 the second !

About 100 chairs had been set up which caused unseated residents to drag chairs in from adjoining rooms and cause unsafe conditions in the halls. The Manager of the Day called security and tried to get some of the attendees to leave. Their comments included, “This is free, I live here, and I’m coming in.”

That event showed several things: one - there was interest; two - for crowd control a registration fee had to be charged; three - attendance would have to be taken at each session to keep out non-paying students.

Flyers went out to all residents seeking instructors and the advisory board and the founder also personally sought out lecturers. The board determined that all classes would be held in the same building, still under construction, and that a registration fee of $25 would be charged for 2 semesters – Fall 2006 and Spring 2007.

One hour classes would be held on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday mornings (to accommodate non-resident lecturers). Half-hour intervals between classes would be scheduled to allow students time to attend to personal needs.

Two classes would be held on Sundays, at 1 P.M. and at 2:30 P.M, and Wednesdays at 10 A.M. and at 11:30 A.M.

Employees were also recruited as lecturers and responded enthusiastically. Program guides with registration forms and space for course selections, with no limitations, were prepared and distributed.

The first semester saw interesting college-level courses. Among the 21 courses offered were: Islam and the Arab World; ten sessions on Mozart; U. S. Supreme Court Decision Making, given by a working judge; European Union; Elder Law; History of Jazz; Kent State Post Analysis; 1893 Columbian Exposition; Pearl Harbor, given by an eyewitness; The Amish of Pennsylvania; Poetry.

One hundred and thirty-three students registered and according to the evaluations, were pleased and found their educational experiences informative. Some of the instructors volunteered to lecture again during the Spring 2007 semester.

It can be said that this Elderhostel Institute for Learning in Retirement program at my Retirement Village is a success!




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