February 14, 2005

Program offers classes for 50+ set

Sacramento State is taking the mantra “You’re never too old to learn” to heart. In addition to programs for traditional students, the University has beefed up its offerings for those who’ve earned the title “senior” for more than accumulated class credits.

The most recent addition to the palate of classes, lectures and travel opportunities is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a College of Continuing Education-led effort that provides courses for tuning both mind and body.

The institute, which began in the fall, is designed for the 50-plus crowd, says its director, Elizabeth Hough. It’s aimed at people who are making the transition between the work world and some of the University’s long-standing learning-in-retirement offerings like the Renaissance Society and Elder Hostel.

“Osher courses are fun, non-credit courses that give participants the opportunity to meet others with similar interests,” Hough says. The sessions are shorter than regular semester-length courses, taking into account the busy schedules of participants.

The inaugural courses touched on a variety of topics: theater, Cuba, financial planning, healthy habits, American history through literature, and facilitating adult learning. Sessions ranged from five to 13 weeks and were taught by faculty members from campus as well as experts from the surrounding community.

Theatre and dance professor Ed Brazo said the enthusiasm from the students he taught in the theatre sampler course was infectious. “It was sheer enjoyment. We always went over the allotted class time,” he says.

Students attended performances at several local theatres and listened to guest speakers from various theater disciplines such as acting, directing, lighting and set design. And they attended a dress rehearsal for one of Sacramento State’s productions as well as auditions for the spring production.

Because the class was less structured than his regular classes, Brazo was able to share more “tips of the trade” than theory. “Many had seen several theatre productions before, so they enjoyed the backstage part of it. Some are even taking it again.”

One of those repeat customers is Dick Dotters, who took the course with his wife Sally. “I took the class because I was interested in expanding my horizons,” he says. “Before, I could go to the theatre but not appreciate it as much because now I know what goes into a production.” Along with the opportunity to be a theater “insider,” Dotters says he also enjoyed the social nature of the class. “We met people with a similar interest and established a lot of new friendships.”

Student Ron Clyma enjoyed the healthy habits class so much, he wrote about it in the institute’s first newsletter. He said he approached his first health and fitness class in many years with “tremendous trepidation.” But because it was designed for seniors with limitations and tailored for each student, he found it a fun and useful alternative to “the glitzy gyms I had tried where I never felt at home among the shiny steel weight machines and form-hugging bodysuits.”

He also appreciated the opportunity to get personalized counseling and menu suggestions from a nutritionist. “Most of all, though,” he wrote, “I think I prized the gentle but steady encouragement I received to set realistic goals for changes that really improved not only my health but my self-image.”

Students can register for individual courses or by the “semester” which entitles them to take up to three courses. New courses for the spring will include one on Northern California cuisine featuring advice on cooking with local produce, field trips, demonstrations by area chefs and applications in the Family and Consumer Sciences kitchen lab. Others will include a holistic healing seminar, a digital photography course and a class on how American culture shapes religion.

Over the summer the institute will also support a writing conference, featuring workshops and evening readings led by published authors.

Most of the courses are held in Napa Hall. But Hough says plans are in the works to take the show “on the road,” offering shorter versions of the classes at local retirement communities.

Seed money for the program is provided by a $100,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, named for a Bay Area philanthropist who has helped fund adult learning on campuses throughout the country. The campus can apply for similar amounts in the next two years and will then be eligible to compete for a $1 million endowment.

In addition to the Osher programs, the University offers a number of programs for the senior set:

Details: Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: (916) 278-5485 or osher@csus.edu.
Renaissance Society: (916) 278-7834 or www.csus.edu/org/rensoc/
Elderhostel: (916) 278-7847
Sixty-Plus: Re-entry Services at (916) 278-3901

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