At the beginning of the year, I posted the question, "what contribution to your community's calendar are you the most proud of in 2012?" One of the options was "add a new educational program" and it was not selected once. I was very surprised and it made me think to share some of the ways that I have added more educational opportunities to my retirement community's activity calendar.
First, when I think about education and what would appeal to the independent living residents in my community, the subjects are varied and endless. Some of the topics off the top of my head are Art Appreciation, Crafts, Dance, Drawing, Picture Matting and Framing, Music Appreciation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater, Environmental, Self-Improvement, Cooking, Sports, History, Current Events, Literature, Foreign Language, Digital Photo, Social Networking, Computers, Nature, Scrapbooking, Jewelry Making, Health and Wellness and more.
The benefits of participating in educational programs are great for the resident. Learning in their own community relieves the resident of the pressure associated with attending a real class and they find like-minded residents who share a common interest with them. They can explore unfamiliar subjects, broaden their horizons, and feel more alive as they learn new concepts.
As the activities director, it is my job to provide these educational opportunities to the residents. There are two different was that I do this. The first is that when there are programs of interest happening in the city where we live, I get the details, promote the event and provide a bus for the interested residents to attend. The other way to provide this type of program is to host an educational program in your own community.
Some of the places that you will find educational opportunities, also know as life long learning, continuing education, or adult education are to take your residents to or to contact about coming to your community are:
- Places of Worship (Churches/ Temples)
- College and Universities
- Individual Professionals
- Parks and Recreation Department
You should be on the mailing lists for these places so that you can see what is offered. Then you are able to do the research necessary to find the professor, speaker, or presenter yourself.
With the colleges and universities, you can send the resident to attend a paid course, find out if there are free classes that they can sit in on (usually available after the paying students have sign up), or do your homework and hire the same professor to come to your community. Bringing the professor to your community usually means looking for their contact information from the catalogue the school provides for their lifelong learning course or seeking them on-line.
You might also find subject of interest to your residents on-line. Be careful that you are not bringing a business into your community whose intention is to sell your residents a product or service. One of the sites that I found helpful is USA.Gov It takes a bit of your time to read through and find what might be of interest for you, but it would be worth it. Another good source of programs that you could bring to your community are from Road Scholar (which use to be Elderhostel). These are DVD programs that you would buy and have in your community forever.