Weatherford Democrat


December 21, 2009

Retirees find that it's never too late to learn

DENTON, Texas (AP) — Elsie Griffith, 84, is taking English — and 15 other courses — this fall at UNT. She commutes practically every weekday between her home and the Denton campus.

"It's better to burn out than to rust out," she explained. "That's been my philosophy of life, and it's worked pretty well."

Though some recession-racked workers have had to return to school to study for new careers, many retirees are heading back to the classroom simply for the joy of learning. Their ulterior motives are to keep their minds sharp and meet people with similar interests.

UNT is the latest four-year university and one of the first in this area to create a lifelong learning organization to accommodate older adults' intellectual curiosity. Nationwide, there are hundreds of such programs catering to people 50 and older who want to rekindle old interests or explore new ones.

College and university towns have been called the country's next big destinations for retirees, as seniors eager to stay engaged during their golden years move near campuses where they can sit in on classes, attend cultural activities and catch sporting events.

Experts say the lifelong learning programs, which offer a range of noncredit college-level classes with no prerequisites, will be perfectly suited to provide the mental stimulation and social networking the active retirees seek.

"The Emeritus College is a health club designed especially for the brain," said Marilyn Wagner, director of UNT's Center for Achievement and Lifelong Learning. "Researchers have found that challenging your mind is one of the best ways to slow down aging."

Some of the new college's classes have a down-to-earth purpose, such as managing a retirement nest egg. But others are more like flights of fancy for the mind. One course examines the differences between bluegrass and country-Western music.

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