Lipscomb University’s Lifelong Learning program started its spring 2018 sessions on Feb. 5. The first session concludes on March 9 with the second session beginning March 26 and ending April 27.
In existence since 2002, the program provides senior alumni and community members the opportunity to build relationships and expand their commitment to learning.
“We feel like sometimes it’s more of a ministry than a job,” said Amy Hamar, director of the Lifelong Learning Senior Alumni Program. “There are so many aging individuals who come because they feel safe here. They know we look out for them and take care of them.”
“We have a lot of widows and widowers who need social interaction because they get lonely,” Hamar continued. “The program helps them to engage not only mentally but also physically and most importantly, spiritually.”
Hamar, with the program since its early days and serving as director for seven, always felt a connection with seniors. She volunteered to help the program founder, the late Patty Dugger, with registration one semester.
“I have always had a love of older adults, so I was naturally drawn to what she did,” explained Hamar. “She needed help with registration one semester and I said that I’d be happy to help her.”
Hamar was inspired. “I told her that when she got ready to retire to let me know because I wanted to do what she was doing.”
Today’s program includes domestic and international travel opportunities and single offering events, expansions to its original structure. “At the same time as I took over this program, I had proposed another for senior alumni because I felt like everything we were doing was for young or middle-aged alumni,” said Hamar. “There is such a difference in the events you put on and things seniors are interested in compared to what we were offering younger alums.”
Senior wisdom makes the work gratifying for Hamar and her team. “We have wonderful relationships with our older people,” Hamar continued. “We have a great group of people that we love, and they love us – it’s worked out really well.”
Amid the fellowship is commitment to learning. However, topic selection is fundamental. “No 70 year old wants to take Algebra I,” Laura Tywater, coordinator of Lifelong Learning programs, cleverly jested.
Instructor selection occasionally challenges Hamar and Tywater as topics may not enable the utilization of Lipscomb faculty members.
Hamar clarified, “We try to use our own professors as much as we can because we want to highlight what Lipscomb is doing and what we have to offer. But sometimes there is a certain topic we’re discussing that may not be anyone’s expertise, so we have to pull from outside of campus.”
For example during the second session, the program will provide the course “Inside Criminal Minds.” Pat Postiglione, retired detective and sergeant of the Nashville Metro Police Department’s homicide cold case unit, will instruct.
Suitably to the classroom sessions are opportunities for domestic and international travel. “We always have something in the making,” said Hamar.
The trips are learning opportunities complete with professors in tow, lecturing throughout the journey. Ken Durham from the College of Bible & Ministry and an expert on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien will accompany the group this May to Ireland.
“We love to travel so it’s fun when you can do it with your job,” Hamar professed.
Accompanying the travel are adventures and even the occasional matchmaking. “A widow and widower got together on our Israel trip. We got to see the whole thing unfold,” Hamar exclaimed.
She continued, “A few months later, he wanted me to help arrange a surprise engagement.” “Amy was one of only three other people present,” Tywater added.
“When you’re not here, you wonder what they’re doing and how they’re having a great time,” said Irene Acuff, long-time participant of the program. “It’s just unbelievable and the trips they plan, oh my word. You feel like a queen or king!”
“The range of topics my husband and I have learned over the past 10 years is astounding. It’s a marvelous program,” said fellow participant Ellen Bell.
“You cannot come and not benefit from this program,” concluded Bell.
Wilson Watenbarger agrees. “Amy and Laura came to talk about their program and they were so convincing I signed up before I left the meeting,” he said. “I signed up for so many classes, I realized I hadn’t left any space in my schedule!”
During the drastic paradigm shifts experienced by our seniors, the kinship inherent to the program is critical.
“We have people who are physically challenged who come to our program and are trying hard to stay active. We help people who are lonely or grieving over the loss of a loved one to figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives,” explained Tywater.
“It really is a family here,” said Acuff. “Everybody needs to know about this program.”
The Lifelong Learning Program has exciting offerings in the future. In 2019, participants anticipate a mission trip to Cuba as part of the Million Bible Project and a WWII tour of D-Day. In 2018, domestic trips include the Noah’s Ark Creation Museum in Kentucky culminating Genesis for Adults.