It’s never too late to learn. That’s the message behind a program at UCF directed at senior citizens wishing to continue their educations.

The Learning Institute for Elders (LIFE) is a nonprofit organization for Central Floridians who are of retirement age and desire to continue learning.

“We’re almost too successful,” LIFE board member Roy Scherer said. “We have nearly 400 members and a current waiting list of over 100.”

The program’s fall semester started Aug. 24 and will end Nov. 30.

Each semester’s curriculum includes a series of work shops and presentations. The categories are diverse and span several disciplines, including medical, today’s military, science, literature and poetry, and history.

There are no stringent admission requirements for those wishing to participate in LIFE; all that is required is an interest in continued learning and a $100 tuition payment for the year. There are waivers available for those unable to pay the tuition fee due to financial hardship, but they are not requested very often.

This university is not the first establishment to develop such an opportunity.

The Senior Resource Alliance lists LIFE among 22 other programs for lifelong learning in the Central Florida area.

However, LIFE is the only such program in Central Florida run at a major university that allows participants most of the same privileges as any other student.

The program, sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, offers members many of the same perks that regular students have, including student ID cards, use of the library and computer labs, parking, discount tickets to on-campus shows and events, and student admittance to sporting events.

LIFE, now in its 20th year, started because of the efforts of Dick Tucker, a now retired psychologist at UCF.

Applicants are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier hopeful students apply, the better chance they have of getting in sooner. Generally, about 50 people are admitted to the program each year.

Fellow board member Betty Ingham confirmed that the largest problem is getting through to all of the people.

“People call me begging to be admitted,” she said. “But there’s little we can do.”

However, she and other board member Dee Burke said they are grateful for what the university is able to provide to LIFE.

“On the plus side, the Student Union goes beyond the call of duty, and of course we have to thank [President] Hitt,” Burke said. “The university’s close participation is what makes the program so unique.”

Martha Hitt, President John Hitt’s wife, is an ex-officio member of the 2010-11 LIFE executive board.

LIFE members also enjoy interacting with other UCF students.

“The kids at this university are the best,” Burke said. “They’re very pleasant, very helpful.”

“We interact with the [general student population] really well,” Ingham said, who agreed that the relationship was reciprocal.

Members will often gladly help other students with surveys and projects that require data and enjoy being a part of student life.

“We get the same lectures the students do,” Burke said with a laugh, “but none of the tests.”

LIFE meets in the Pegasus Ballroom every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Source: Central Florida Future, LIFE gives seniors a chance for education, by Angele Maraj, contributing writer. Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2010; Updated: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 17:09