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Intellectual pursuits

Retirement living means retirement learning at Cedar Crest

Created date

April 16th, 2015
Dr. Jim Gallagher teaches courses for Cedar Crest’s Institute for Learning in Retirement.
Dr. Jim Gallagher teaches courses for Cedar Crest’

At campuses across the country, students are studying for final exams, finishing up their spring semester. One particular campus in northern New Jersey acts like a college campus, but its students aren’t what you might typically envision. 

Erickson Living community.

“It’s important as you grow older to be stimulated, and education and interacting with other people in a classroom setting is a very stimulating thing,” says ILR Chairwoman Ruth Palace. 

Continuing education

Cedar Crest’s ILR enables residents to take continuing education courses conveniently without having to leave home. Courses are offered in on-site classrooms, in the community performing arts center or chapel, and some are even aired on the campus cable channel.

“[When we moved,] it was important to us that we had intellectual activities here on campus,” says Ruth, who moved to Cedar Crest with her husband Fred in August 2012. She began taking ILR classes the following year, such as “Lip Reading” and “Intermediate Bridge.”

This spring, course topics range from “Memoir Writing” and “Memoir Printing” to “Aspects of Chinese Culture,” “Six Lesser-known Personalities in the Bible,” and “Shakespeare’s Dysfunctional Families.” Some last 12 to 13 weeks; others are a single hour-and-a-half session. Many change each semester, but popular ones are often offered again. The variety and flexibility allow many people to participate, Ruth says.

This semester, Ruth adds, “I got so involved doing all of the planning and organizing that I wouldn’t mind attending all of the classes.” Some of her favorites include “Chinese Culture” and “Gothic Cathedrals,” among others. 

An academic with a doctorate in social sciences, Dr. Jim Gallagher, who lives at Cedar Crest, teaches several courses. For the past seven years, he’s taught one course on reading Shakespeare plays, and last fall he added a virtual course provided by Harvard University, “Justice: What is the right thing to do?”

“Each week we see an actual lecture by Dr. Gallagher. It’s the most popular course at Harvard, and it’s very popular here as well.” So popular, in fact, that he offered it again this semester. 

“I’ve always been fairly active,” Jim says. “Cedar Crest has been a great place to continue the pace I’ve been going at my whole life.”

Jim isn’t the only resident lecturer. Several others volunteer to teach courses, along with staff members. 

Freshening up

New this semester, the course catalog got a redesign. Community Resources Coordinator Patrick Cirelli redesigned the catalog into a larger 8 ½- by 11-inch format from its original, smaller size. “It allows us to make the print larger and to do a spreadsheet-type course listing in the beginning of the booklet,” Ruth says.

ILR also began offering courses at Moutainview Gardens, Cedar Crest’s on-site continuing care community. “I think that’s a step in the right direction. Just because someone may need some additional care doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to continuing education opportunities,” Ruth says.

One course, in fact, “Inside Mountainview Gardens,” explains different levels of care and the financial structure of continuing care at Cedar Crest. Although most people never need additional care, they have peace of mind in knowing it’s there should they ever need it—and they don’t have to move away from their friends or spouse. 

Looking forward

As this is Ruth’s first semester leading ILR, she has big plans for the future. She uses the international continuing education and travel organization Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) for inspiration and sees many opportunities ahead. 

Road Scholar offers educational travel tours. “What Road Scholar does for us is give us a great source of ideas,” Ruth says. 

And, she says, they may take advantage of some Road Scholar trips. “We might consider an excursion through Road Scholar to Chautauqua, N.Y.,” she says. 

The Chautauqua Institution, a 750-acre education center beside Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York, offers summer courses in art, music, dance, theater, writing skills, and a wide variety of other special interests. 

“There is a lot of potential for our program,” Ruth says.