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Class of now

Lifelong learners hit the classroom

Created date

July 31st, 2009

Residents Bene and Harold Seldin have a greater appreciation for Macbeth since participating in SCAN s weekly Shakespeare appreciation class held at the Seabrook campus in Tinton Falls. The call for health and well-being can be heard from the mountainside of Pompton Plains every Friday around 10 a.m. Literally. That s when Dr. Jim Gallagher leads Drumming for Health and Pleasure, an Elderhostel class, for about seven of his Cedar Crest neighbors in Cedar Crest s Woodland Commons Conference Center. Each one of us is a drummer It s really a lot of fun to gather with others in drum circles to build community and find freedom of creative expression and joy, Gallagher says. Once people get to know what a drum circle is, they really become hooked. Gallagher knew hands down drum circles were for him when he attended a yoga retreat in California years ago. He met a woman there who brought drums into a local nursing home, and the residents responded positively with enhanced immune systems, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, and an intense desire to get in touch with one s feelings. It s a simple learning experience, and it is so easy to pick up the beats since each one of us is a rhythmical being because we have a heartbeat, Gallagher says. erefore, each one of us is a drummer. Institute for Learning in Retirement According to Marge Wyngaarden, coordinator of the Institute for Learning in Retirement at Cedar Crest (where she lives), the program operates in cooperation with Elderhostel, a not-for-profit organization that provides educational opportunities and learning adventures to people age 55 and over. We offer our residents the opportunity to define and pursue their own informal educational goals at their own pace and according to their own choices and talents, she says. The opportunities are endless and range from Learning to Play the Guitar to Adventures in Cartooning and anything you can imagine in between. Membership is $15. I think it s just great that we utilize the intelligence of our residents, says Jean E. Harris, a drum circle participant who also became hooked on drumming after attending a women s retreat at a church camp along the Delaware River a few years ago. She loves the African drum her son bought her for her birthday about five years ago. It s so relaxing, and the best part about it is that you don t have to read music, there are no mistakes, and you just have to let your spirit take you, she says. We re all having fun with it, and it s just a good feeling when you re there. Gallagher, an English literature major who received his doctorate degree in psychology and also conducts Elderhostel s Shakespeare class at Cedar Crest, agrees and welcomes new participants to his weekly sessions. The reward for me is that I am fulfilling my own ambitions by facilitating these classes, he says. The only limitation is the amount of time you have. One of the most unique aspects of the drumming circle is the connectedness it creates. Try it. You ll probably like it! Adventures in learning Down the Shore, at Cedar Crest s sister community, Seabrook, Monmouth County s SCAN learning center helps residents to keep their minds active and interact with all sorts of interesting people. Our goal, just like Erickson s, is to promote a culture of lifelong learning, healthy lifestyles, and independent living by off ering programs that enhance intellectual and physical growth and enrich the quality of life of older adults, says Beth Stamp, executive director of SCAN. We make a difference in the lives of older adults by off ering choices to meet the joys and challenges of agingin the 21st century. Weekly classes range from line dancing and opera appreciation to Shakespeare, which is taught by William Farrell. Farrell has been conducting the class for about ten years and covers all 37 of Shakespeare s plays. I just thought it would be a good idea because most people don t really appreciate the plays in high school, he says. It really is enjoyable to read and watch. Seabrook residents Bene and Harold Seldin love to do things together and woudn t miss the weekly classes for anything in the world. Bill is a superb teacher and an incredibly good analyst of Shakespeare, Mr. Seldin says. He has developed a fine-tooth approach to bringing the plays to life in so many dimensions. Mrs. Seldin loves following along with the DVD in class and considers the opportunity a wonderful convenience. We are so lucky to be able to walk down to a classroom on campus to take advantage of this class, she says. We don t have to get in a car, worry about parking, or anything. Fun, fellowship, knowledge According to SCAN Program Director Andrea Tarr, the classes are successful not only because they extend the reach as a satellite campus, but also because the topics come directly from ideas presented by Seabrook residents. Our motto is to live, laugh, and learn; and while doing that, we have fun, form fellowship, and gain knowledge, Tarr says. We really do off er a wide variety of classes that appeal to everyone. For Seabrook resident Marion Swenson, participating in the class keeps her on her toes. I started my first class about four years ago and just love it, she says. It keeps my mind moving, and it makes you think. And we do have to study, you know! I just can t wait for the next class in the fall. Stamp says that adult education and the overall SCAN program support what pioneer Henry Ford said: Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.