Schooling Doesn’t End at Retirement

Communities provide residents with lifelong learning opportunities

By Caroline Neal

Children in Texas are not the only ones taking new classes this fall. Their grandparents and great-grandparents are joining in the fun. 

To reduce cognitive decline and increase social engagement amongst their residents, such Dallas retirement communities as CC Young, Juniper Village at Preston Hollow, The Preston of the Park Cities, and Everleigh Forestwood prioritize lifelong learning. 

CC Young and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of North Texas recently entered a three-year partnership and began offering OLLI classes at CC Young.

“We are happy to bring what is a very established lifelong learning program over to a new group of residents who are ready and open for it,” said OLLI’s senior director Stephanie Reinke. 

CC Young residents and others in Dallas can take a variety of courses, including “Rise and Fall of the Republic of Texas,” “Opera Basics: Its Components,” and “Works of Toni Morrison,” without the stress of homework, tests, grades, or the pursuit of a degree.

Jennifer Griffin, vice president of engagement at CC Young, said the courses will foster “interest” and “mental and emotional stimulation.”

Reinke hopes the courses inspire residents to learn, form connections, and discuss common interests.

Filmmaker Miles Hargrove talks to residents at The Preston of the Park Cities in 2021 about his first documentary, Miracle Fishing. (Photo: Courtesy The Preston of the Park Cities) 

“It’s kind of like a second family you become with the OLLI members,” Reinke said. “You have that shared passion for learning, and they become great friends doing it.”

Other communities have developed educational and enrichment programs. Juniper Village at Preston Hollow has Juniper University, and The Preston of the Park Cities, a Watermark Retirement Communities-managed property, has Watermark University.

“Programs that focus on enhancing the mind, body, and spirit are not unusual in senior living communities,” Ke’o Velasquez said. The former executive director of The Preston of the Park Cities recently left to join Forefront Living.

Michelle Wingfield, executive director of Juniper Village, said Juniper University helps residents to continue growing as individuals with classes ranging from house plant basics to senior fraud to UV safety.

Participation was slow at the beginning, but the educational talks and activities soon grew in popularity, she said. “Word of mouth got a hold of it, and people got excited about it.”

Everleigh Forestwood is focusing on physical wellbeing. In addition to art and cooking classes, group therapy, and talks about the aging brain, Everleigh puts on daily fitness classes, including Zumba, aqua cardio, and SilverSneakers.

Lifestyle Coordinator Kailee Dougherty said these classes foster “a sense of community.” For Dougherty, lifelong learning creates the opportunity to try different activities.

“Even if they’re not learning something educational per se,” Dougherty said, “they’re still learning something or doing something different, which I think is actually really healthy for an older person to not be stuck in the same habits every single day.”

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