More and more, people about to retire are craving access to educational opportunities to grow and keep fresh in their senior years, a need that can be met by living in a college town.
That’s one of the reasons why Lawrence was named one of the best places to retire by USA Today in 2007, and has appeared since on other similar lists.
Kansas University is catering to the educational interests of the growing local retiree population with offerings such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Director Jim Peters says the institute, located in KU’s continuing education building, is committed to providing education for those not pursuing degrees but seeking knowledge.
“When our students come to class, they bring 60 or 70 years of life experience with them and they want to share it,” Peters said. “They’re coming to that class because there is something about that class they want to know.”
Designed specifically for people older than 50, the classes offered by the Osher Institute cover topics many older people never had the chance to take during their youthful college careers.
“If they were in health care, they were taking all the sciences and never got to take those fun humanities or liberal arts classes,” Peters said, “or they were in Law or English and now they would like to take some of those science classes they never had to take when they were in school. So we try to offer a broad spectrum of disciplines.”
Topics such as opera, taught by Don Dagenais, a Kansas City real-estate attorney who doubles as an opera critic, or Arlington National Cemetery, taught by Peters, who wrote a book on the national burial grounds during his five years living in Washington, D.C. Even Lawrence Journal-World chief photographer Mike Yoder teaches a class on photography.
Each class is just six hours long, divided into three two-hour sessions, which Peters says is designed to cater to the lifestyle of retired learners.
“That is long enough for people to drill down on a concept but not so long that people have to commit to a whole semester of learning,” Peters said.
And at $50 for the first course and $25 for each additional course, Osher Institute classes also are cheaper than paying university tuition.
Peters says the broad range of topics reflects the high quality of professors who teach for the institute. KU faculty, retired professors and members of the community share their time and knowledge to teach classes throughout the academic year. Peters says that many professors find teaching at the Osher Institute to be refreshing.
“No offense to undergraduates, but it is a whole different audience when you are teaching seniors,” Peters said. “Seniors learn differently, they get involved differently and they are there because they want to be there – they’re not taking a mandatory class.”