Senior citizens take classes, expand horizons in Fairfield
FAIRFIELD — Learning doesn’t have to end with graduation. For local senior citizens, an option is Lifelong Learners of Fairfield.
For 17 years, Lifelong Learners has been running continuing education courses for senior citizens at the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities. The organization offers more than 30 courses that range from art and music appreciation to science and technology. Learners are welcome from anywhere, with most coming from Fairfield and nearby towns including Westport, Trumbull, Easton, Bridgeport and Stamford, as well as Westchester County.
The class’s instructors also hail from wide variety of backgrounds. The greatest share of instructors are current and former professors from Fairfield University, in addition to professors from Sacred Heart and Yale, local high school teachers and professionals from the community.
Enrollment is relatively inexpensive, with a $15 annual fee and a $20 cost per course. While some instructors receive a small honorarium, most volunteer their time free of charge. Lifelong Learners is thus able to donate excess funds raised to the Bigelow Center as an informal facility fee to thank the Center for hosting courses. Lifelong Learners also supports a scholarship for students at Fairfield University in honor of their many professors involved in the organization.
Semester courses run for either four, five or six weeks at a time in two-hour, once-a-week blocks. In addition, Lifelong Learners holds special “Tuesdays in March” events, which run for a single class each and allow instructors to be more experimental and try out new courses.
Classes cover a range of topics. This past semester, courses taught seniors about the history of Saudi Arabia, international politics, art history, artificial intelligence, silent films, classical music, film music and how to draw flowers. Lifelong Learners welcomes suggestions from learners as to what new courses they’d like to see added. Classical music, for example, was an untapped area in high demand until it was just recently added to the course catalog.
“There’s something for everybody,” board member Paul Lipof said.
Aside from education, Lifelong Learners also provides senior citizens with a rich social environment. As chair of Lifelong Learners Patricia Sabena noted, it’s often difficult for elderly people to be social outside of their comfort zones, and Lifelong Learners serves as a great opportunity to make new friends.
“It’s a very welcome, friendly place,” Sabena explained. “You find amazing friendships.”
Enrollment has grown significantly in recent years, with the total number of courses taken increasing by over 600 since 2015. Looking forward, Lifelong Learners hopes to continue expanding. Next semester, a new time slot will be added on Wednesday mornings that will increase the number of courses offered.
Through this and more, Lifelong Learners of Fairfield will continue to welcome and expand the horizons of local senior citizens.