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Back to school

Cedar Crest embraces lifelong learning

Created date

August 21st, 2012

Grandkids aren t the only ones heading back to school this time of year. At Cedar Crest, an Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., hundreds of retirees are gearing up for another semester of continuing education courses. Community member Marge Wyngaarden brought Road Scholar by Elderhostel, Inc. (formerly Elderhostel), to Cedar Crest seven years ago. The organization traditionally partners with colleges and universities and runs more than 450 programs throughout the country. As the only retirement community nationwide to offer Road Scholar courses, Cedar Crest feels proud to provide its residents with such an opportunity. It s very important to use your brain just the same as you would exercise your body, Marge says.

Peer-taught classes

Cedar Crest s instructors truly make the program stand out. Marge coordinates her own neighbors to teach the courses, so participants learn from their peers. In fact, the majority of lecturers live at the community. I have some really remarkable people who are teaching, she says. There s a lot of knowledge here. Community Resources Coordinator Amy Wagener says instructors and students benefit from the arrangement. Both benefit, I think, in that the students learn new things from the people they live amongst, and instructors learn new things from their students just from commenting and having open discussions in the class. One instructor, Arnold Silver, taught at Columbia University. When he moved to Cedar Crest, he wanted the opportunity to continue teaching. Now, he runs the Shakespeare course each spring and fall. Another course, What s New in the Sciences, focuses on the New York Times science section. The weekly course, taught by community member Ivan Chasalow, is so popular we have a wait list, Marge says. She likens it to Great Decisions, a national discussion program on world affairs, also offered at the community. This fall, one course will focus on the presidential elections of 1812, 1912, and 2012. It s a presidential election year, so this research seminar will involve role playing, lecture, and presentations, Marge explains. Some popular standbys include a short story course in which participants read and discuss, a Shakespeare course, and Is Technology Passing You By? which aims to teach participants about new technology such as the iPad, Kindle, Bluetooth, and smart phones. The goal is to be able to talk to your grandkids, Marge says.

Affordable, convenient

Marge first started an Elderhostel program 12 years ago at Bergen Community College as an institute for learning in retirement. When she moved to Cedar Crest, she saw an even better chance to create convenient learning opportunities for her peers. The community has classrooms, meeting spaces, a 250-seat performing arts center, and nearly 2,000 active older adults. Participants need only walk down the hall to enter a classroom full of learning opportunities. Now, seven years later, Marge coordinates 40 to 45 classes for more than 350 participants each spring and fall. The cost? A mere $25 for unlimited spring and fall classes or $15 for one term. It takes a lot of my time to plan, come up with class topics, line up the instructor, and schedule, Marge admits. But she keeps coming back, eager for her peers to continue learning and exercising their brains.

A perfect pair

Road Scholar by Elderhostel, Inc., is most well known for its educational adventures, providing lifelong learning across the globe. Since 1975, the organization has been committed to keeping Americans active after retirement. In that sense, the pairing between Cedar Crest and Elderhostel only seems fitting. The community, which has more than 150 clubs, groups, and activities mostly run by residents themselves embraces an active retirement. It s a perfect match, Wagener says. They get to experience college-like classes in the comfort of their own home for a small fee.