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No age limit on learning

Alissa Widman Neese • Jan 22, 2014 at 8:10 PM

A recently renovated program for adults at Terra State Community College is possibly the ideal college experience.

It doesn’t require tests, grades or homework — just a desire to learn for learning’s sake.

Terra State Community College revamped its ElderCollege program this year and renamed the newly enhanced program “Life Scholars,” because of its emphasis on lifelong educational enrichment. The reconfiguration of the decades-old program is partially prompted by the college creating a new Lifelong Learning department.

Anyone who is 50 years old or older can participate in the Life Scholars program, regardless of their educational background.

The concept, in a nutshell: Adults pay an affordable fee to participate in as many classes, workshops, seminars and trips as they desire, based on their particular interests.

“We know that a key to healthy aging is to be active, engaged, intellectually curious and social,” said Michael Shirtz, dean of the college’s Business, Communication and the Arts Division, which now oversees Life Scholars. “We believe Life Scholars can be that mechanism for people”

The college will host a free sampler event on campus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, when potential Life Scholars can learn more about the courses and sign up. Course costs vary, but individuals who pay a $25 annual membership fee can get a significant discount and other benefits.

Popular offerings this year include classes on history, art, music, food, exercise, computers, politics and social media, as well as day-long and overnight trips to various destinations, such as the Henry Ford Museum, Shirtz said.

Local professionals, as well as peers and Terra State Community College faculty members, often teach the courses.

Several hundred people from a five-county area participated in ElderCollege in some capacity this past year, and the college is hoping to grow that number even more, Shirtz said.

“There’s a little something for everyone, and we’re very excited about our opportunity to expand it and develop it even further this year,” he said. “The best part is the members themselves helped build the curriculum, so we’ve developed it into topics we know people are passionate about studying”

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