Lifelong learning offers many classes for seniors

Lifelong Learning Institute volunteers work on numerous committees and tasks, such as mailing course catalogs and event information to members. (Handout/Lifelong Learning Institute)
Lifelong Learning Institute volunteers work on numerous committees and tasks, such as mailing course catalogs and event information to members. (Handout/Lifelong Learning Institute)

WAUBONSEE, Ill. — In the fall of 1996, Plano’s Lin Bargemann was one of four individuals who lent their hands as facilitators for programs that were being offered to seniors 55 years old and older for the first time.

At the time, Bargemann said Waubonsee Community College was interested in developing programs geared directly toward seniors.

Her class titled “Julius Caesar and Its Ramification for the Modern Man” and three other classes were so successful, they were repeated in the spring.

Twenty years later, the Lifelong Learning Institute has grown to now offer about 90 different classes in a variety of topics ranging from railroading to the history of corn husk dolls. Members plan, lead, and participate in the courses, group officials said.

This December, the members will be marking the 20th anniversary of Lifelong Learning Institute with a holiday luncheon, said Mary Maier, its member services coordinator.

Founding member Kally Klose wrote in a recent Lifelong Learning Institute newsletter, “In the beginning there were only five or six people interested in Lifelong Learning. I was adamant about this new idea that people should continue learning their entire life. …”

“Today, we have about 400 members participate in classes,” Bargemann said. “We have classes in the areas of history, music, and theatre and also offer extended trips.” She is enrolled in two classes — “Gilded Age in America” and “Journaling/Mix Media” — this fall.

Other classes offered this fall included “Murder She Wrote, But!” which delved into the study of female authors whose protagonists are police detectives or private investigators and “Adolescence: Strangers in a Strange Land.” In this class, participants were encouraged to remember their own adolescence in the light of current research on the topic.

When the group started, Bargemann said, individuals paid $20 a year to be members and $5 for each class they enrolled in.

Today, the group, which is run exclusively by volunteers, charges $25 memberships and $5 per class regardless of whether it meets one time or runs for six to eight weeks, she added.

Also, the age at which members can join has been lowered to 50.

Classes are offered in the fall, spring, and summer following Waubonsee Community College’s academic calendar.

About 100 of the members help out the organization — some facilitating one of the classes or others working behind the scenes carrying out the administrative duties of the organization.

The group’s members also provide scholarships to Waubonsee Community College students.

Maier added the group is affiliated with Road Scholar, previously Elderhostel, which is a nonprofit organization that provides educational tours geared toward adults 50 and older.

“We are unique from other local groups affiliated with Road Scholar because we are 100 percent volunteer driven,” she added.

“We couldn’t do this without the help of Waubonsee Community College,” Bargemann said.

Waubonsee Community College classrooms are used for many of Lifelong Learning Institute’s classes. Additionally, the group uses local libraries and senior centers as satellite locations.

“It is amazing to see people who have no interest in a subject matter enroll in a class and become so deeply involved in it,” Bargemann said.