College Classes for Adults Ages 50 and Up
By Jenna Marina Lee
Throughout the academic year, hundreds of eager students come to UCF’s Student Union to attend lectures by faculty on a range of topics. Many show up early to find a good seat and catch up with friends while sipping on a cup of hot coffee.
These students are the “senior class” of the Learning Institute for Elders (LIFE) at UCF. LIFE was organized nearly 30 years ago as a partnership with the university to offer noncredit courses and access to UCF resources, such as the library, for adults age 50 and over.
And people are clamoring to join. The group currently stands at 798 members, up 148 members from just two years ago. The waitlist averages 300 to 400 people in any given year, and the wait time is between nine and 21 months, according to LIFE program coordinator Leslie Collin.
Given today’s life expectancy rates, it’s not all that surprising that today’s retirees are finding value in going back to school. On average, a man who reaches age 65 today can expect to live until age 84 while a woman can expect to live until age 87, according to the Social Security Administration.
“That’s at least two decades of life available for exploring new opportunities for work, leisure and civic engagement,” says Denise Gammonley, associate professor of social work and coordinator of UCF’s aging studies minor.
“UCF already engages with older adults and helps them achieve a vision of purposeful and productive aging, but I think there are ways we can take it to the next level.”
Gammonley is one of the leads of UCF’s disability, aging and technology research cluster, a group of professors and researchers who are linking health interventions with technology to help populations of all ages.
Gammonley says the faculty cluster’s research has the potential to foster what she likes to call purposeful aging, or engaging in activities that are personally meaningful. Research shows that having such a purpose is a predicator of longevity.
For Todd Bowers ’77, a LIFE board member, that means staying active. “I think there are people that just know being around something as vibrant as UCF and all these young people is good for them. We put a high value on lifelong learning,” he says.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship for UCF. LIFE members frequently participate and contribute to research studies, and donate to the university.
“UCF already engages with older adults and helps them achieve a vision of purposeful and productive aging, but I think there are ways we can take it to the next level,” Gammonley says.
Enter Legacy Pointe at UCF, a senior living community close to the university’s main campus, due for completion in 2021. Legacy Pointe will give residents options for independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care residences. Residents will also have access to high-quality programs from the university.
In turn, students will have the opportunity to grow from interprofessional educational events, internships and service learning at the facility.
“[Residents] have this vast amount of knowledge and talent that many of them want to share with the UCF community,” says Gammonley. “We’re also very excited about being able to create new models of clinical care. Our relationship with Legacy Pointe will allow us to put our research to the test in the real world.”
To learn more about senior living options at Legacy Pointe at UCF, visit LegacyPointeAtUCF.com.