There’s a saying that goes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, well local retirees, beg to differ. While stereotypes suggest that seniors are not open to new ideas and that they are set in their ways, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) found that older adults actually are interested in learning. This is a group of people that want to keep up with what's going on in the world, who wish to expand their spiritual or personal growth, and relish in the simple joy of learning something new. Many of the residents at Woodland Pond at New Paltz, the only continuing care retirement community in the Hudson Valley, have prestigious backgrounds as doctors, lawyers, writers and various specialists. They recognize and embrace the value of lifelong learning. Wanting to offer educational opportunities to residents and provide the chance for qualified residents to teach classes to area seniors, Woodland Pond decided to partner with the State University of New York’s Lifetime Learning Institute. The classes are open to the public. Residents can participate in classes with fellow retirees in the area, or they can volunteer to teach classes.
“Residents and others age 55 and over can pursue an existing interest, or begin exploring a new one,” said Michelle Gramoglia, executive director of Woodland Pond at New Paltz. “Courses are open to the public and are based in a SUNY New Paltz classroom in a downtown location, or, most conveniently held right at the community. The courses are taught by experienced, quality instructors who volunteer their time for the program. The courses range from 6 – 8 weeks in length.
Residents at Woodland Pond enjoy participating in classes and several have taught classes as well. During the 2014 spring semester, Dr. Paul R. Lurie led a class titled A Cardiologist Explains Things, to educate seniors on the structure and function of the different body parts and how they function. He knew people were curious about this subject, and wanted to help them understand how their bodies work. Dr. Lurie was a professor of Pediatric Cardiology at Indiana University, the University of Southern California and Albany Medical College.
“It felt rewarding to educate people about their bodies, as I enjoy explaining things simply to both patients and people of all ages,” said Dr. Lurie. “This fall, I will be enrolling in classes and experiencing the program from a different side. I am considering teaching another class during a future semester.”
“The whole principle of the Lifetime Learning Institute is to expand our minds,” said Dr. Lurie. “For some people, continued learning is necessary, like eating and sleeping, we have to do it, we feel compelled to do it, and it is a part of everyday living. Learning keeps people engaged and interested in life.”
Fellow Woodland Pond resident and Professor emeritus of LaGuardia Community College, Douglas McBride, led the Great Decisions class, which covered America’s largest discussion on world affairs. McBride highlighted eight of the most thought-provoking policy challenges facing Americans each year. Rob Greene, a practicing therapist and resident of Woodland Pond, also led a class, which was titled What Jung Has to Teach Us About Ourselves, and showed how Jungian psychology can help deepen self-understanding. The course covered dreams, personality types, the shadow, and the two soul images – Anima and Animus.
The Rush Memory and Aging Project showed that when senior adults are exposed to increased cognitive activity decline in cognitive function slowed and the risk of mild cognitive impairment decreased. Research shows that cognitively active seniors are 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than seniors with less cognitive activity. Not only can lifelong learning keep minds sharp and engaged, but it is also critical to emotional health.
The classes are available in the fall and spring. Participants must be a member of The Lifetime Learning Institute Program to register for classes. Annual membership is $115 per person. Each semester offers a variety of courses, such as Claytainers, Murder & Mayhem: Writing a Mystery Novel, Financial Planning for Retirees, Mexico, The US and Manifest Destiny and Yoga Level One.
After conducting a national survey among Americans age 50 and older, researchers from the AARP found that older learners prefer methods that are easy to access, require small investments of time and money to get started, and allow learning to begin immediately. Their results also show that older learners are most interested in subjects that would improve the quality of their lives, build upon a current skill, or enable them to take better care of their health.
“We are thrilled that our residents are taking and teaching these classes,” said Gramoglia. “Many studies have shown that staying engaged and learning new things increases quality of life, keeps the brain sharp and helps prevent the onset of dementia. We are thankful that programs like the Lifetime Learning Institute exist to provide our residents with educational opportunities.”
ABOUT WOODLAND POND
Woodland Pond at New Paltz is located in New Paltz, New York, and is a not-for-profit, upscale, continuing care retirement community (CCRC), tailored exclusively for those 62 and over. Nestled beneath the shoulder of the breathtaking Shawangunk Ridge, the community opened in 2009 and is the only CCRC in the Mid-Hudson Valley area. Woodland Pond offers an 83-acre campus that includes a professionally-staffed Health Center and a Community Center with an art studio, fitness center, heated indoor swimming pool, salon, market basket, billiard room, library, woodworking shop, game room, computer lab and more.
As a true CCRC, Woodland Pond at New Paltz offers independent living with a choice of a private residence (24 cottages and 177 apartments), services, and amenities. Many of the apartment styles and all of the cottages are now either fully reserved and/or occupied. Under Woodland Pond’s Life Care program, residents are provided privileged admission to the assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing center. Life Care functions similar to a long-term care policy wrapped in a healthy and fulfilling resort lifestyle – so that residents can enjoy this chapter of their lives in an inspiring and supportive environment free from worrying about future escalating long-term care expenses.
Woodland Pond caters to a diverse group of accomplished individuals with a variety of interests and a zest for life. The community is operated by HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, an integrated health care system committed to providing quality and compassionate medical care for patients, their families and the Hudson Valley community. For more details, please visit: http://wpatnp.org.