OVERLAND PARK, KS (February 1, 2016) -- If you peek into Tallgrass Creek's living room on many Thursday afternoons between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., you will find a roomful of residents and visitors paying rapt attention to a lively educator.
The "students" are enjoying one of many educational presentations conducted by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, part of the continuing education program at the University of Kansas (KU). The Osher Institute aims to create accessible, innovative learning environments with special focus on participants age 50 and older.
Tallgrass Creek is home to the courses periodically during fall, winter, and summer and draws a crowd of about 100 people. Leaders are professional lecturers associated with KU.
"We always have stimulating conversation among the attendees after each presentation," says resident Don Blim, a retired physician and chairman of the community's Lifelong Learning Committee. "It's immensely enjoyable."
The Osher Institute is only one learning opportunity at Tallgrass Creek coordinated by the resident-driven Lifelong Learning Committee. The committee meets monthly to review all the community's learning opportunities, which include selecting topics from the Osher Institute's lengthy list of educational offerings. Along with Don, committee members include Judy Turner, Lila Martin, Margaret Lyddon, Georgia Erickson, Bettye Coughenour, Jim Graham, and Bob Montgomery.
"We have a very interesting committee and job," says Don. "In terms of the Osher Institute, we try to select topics that are the most relevant and thought-provoking."
Past presentations include extensive overviews of entertainer Frank Sinatra, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the wives of U.S. Presidents during the Civil War. Residents also studied six great thinkers who changed the world and the effect of sports on race and society.
More learning happens on the first and third Saturday mornings of each month when many residents gather to watch a series of college-level DVDs called The Great Courses. The lecture series features various topics discussed by top university professors.
The sessions are held in the community's clubhouse living room from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and can last several weeks depending on the topic. Typically, a different team of residents introduces each topic and, after the group watches the DVD lectures, those residents lead a group discussion.
"These courses are packed with knowledge and really make you think," says Bettye, a retired teacher and school administrator who coordinates The Great Courses. "They are so interesting, you want to attend each week."
Past topics include an overview of the Middle East, a comprehensive perspective of great art masterpieces, and the latest developments in brain fitness. Many of The Great Courses DVDs were given to Tallgrass Creek by resident Gwyn Hall. They belonged to her late husband John C. Hall, who held a Ph.D. in psychology and had a passion for learning.
The Lifelong Learning Committee also coordinates outside speakers from area academic, political, and civic communities. Past speakers include Wyatt Townley, Kansas poet laureate, and Carl Gerlach, mayor of Overland Park, Kans., second largest city in Kansas and home to Tallgrass Creek. (Mayor Gerlach's parents, Jean and George Gerlach, recently moved to Tallgrass Creek.) Other well-attended gatherings include presentations about nutritious, healthy living and palliative care.
Additionally, residents look forward to monthly "Share Your Story" sessions where individual residents share overviews of their lives and accomplishments. The lively gatherings are always packed as residents learn more about their neighbors, some who are published authors, painters, retired law makers, and politicians.
"We are like an extended family here with an interesting variety of people and viewpoints," says Don Blim. "We enjoy learning from each other as well as from outside professionals. Continuing to learn is beneficial for all ages all the time."
Information about all learning opportunities at Tallgrass Creek is available on the community's bulletin board. Registration is only required for the courses sponsored by the Osher Institute, and directions for registering are detailed in catalogs residents receive in their mailboxes several times a year.