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‘There’s so much to learn’

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September 15th, 2016
Ken and Rosemary Gasper will head back to class this fall, taking lifelong learning courses offered at Collin College.

Ken and Rosemary Gasper will head back to class this fall, taking lifelong learning courses offered at Collin College.

Students across Texas aren’t the only ones settling into a new school year. Retirees are also headed back to the classroom in search of lifelong education opportunities offered through many colleges and universities.

In North Texas, Collin College offers the educational program called Seniors Active in Learning [SAIL] for individuals 55-plus. Classes are offered in a variety of disciplines, including art, history, literature, music education, and social sciences. The no-credit classes require no grades, tests, or papers to write.

Ken and Rosemary Gasper enrolled in the SAIL program eight years ago, shortly after they moved to Frisco, Tex., from Charlotte, N.C.

“Now that we’re retired, we don’t have the same responsibilities we did when we had our careers,” says Rosemary, a former high school teacher. “We have time to explore subjects of interest to us.”

Ken, a retired chemical engineer with a number of patents to his name, says, “There’s still so much to learn.”

To look at their schedules for the fall semester, it would be easy to mistake Ken and Rosemary for a couple of college kids.

“We’re usually at Collin College four or five days a week,” says Rosemary. “Some days we leave at 9 a.m. and get home around 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m.”

Central location for learning

“Home” these days is Highland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas. Ken and Rosemary moved into a deluxe two-bedroom, two-bath, Somerton-style apartment home in June 2015.

“Our good friends Jim and Sharon Roth moved to Highland Springs many years ago, so we visited them at the community several times,” says Ken. “When Rosemary and I started looking at retirement communities, we visited several in North Texas to make sure we were choosing the one that was right for us.”

The couple kept coming back to Highland Springs for its array of amenities and the fact that all buildings are connected by enclosed walkways. 

“We visited one community that didn’t even have a dining room,” says Ken. “Highland Springs has two restaurants, a medical center, fitness center, library, and store. Everything we need is in one place.”

Rosemary, for her part, likes having all the amenities under one roof. 

“We can go anywhere in the community without getting out in the elements,” she says. 

There’s one other perk to living at Highland Springs. The couple is closer to Collin College than they were when they lived in Frisco.

“If the traffic lights are right, I can make it to class in seven minutes,” says Rosemary.

Maintaining an active brain

In part, Ken and Rosemary attribute their surging interest in lifelong education to the traveling they’ve done since they retired.

“When you’re in high school, you just sort of slide by, particularly in the subjects of history and art,” says Rosemary. “Now that we’ve visited different parts of the world and seen historic sites come alive, we have a renewed interest in learning more about them.”

Maintaining an active brain is the other factor that keeps them engaged.

“We want to keep alert, keep exploring, and keep enthused about life,” says Rosemary.

In addition to the classes they take at Collin College, Ken and Rosemary often attend lectures at area art museums, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and the Meadows Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

“They’re all within an easy drive,” says Rosemary. “We’re fortunate to live in an area where there is such quality education available for small children up through retirees.” 

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