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Fun, Socialization, Learning

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Various organizations in the Rochester area offer classes for boomers

Going back to school as an adult just for the fun of it can offer many benefits.

“It offers socialization,” said Noel Yarze, senior clinical instructor with URMC. “As people get older, they’re retiring and their children are grown and their social circle changes. Classes are a new way of meeting people.”

She added that the fact that you learn new things can also help maintain cognitive function, as it activates neural connections and stimulates the brain.

“You’re actively engaged instead of watching TV,” she said.

If the class is physical, such as waltzing, tai chi or golf, it benefits aspects of physical health such as strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. However, even getting in the car, driving to an art class, standing for 45 minutes and driving home is more active than sitting home alone all day.

“The good thing is that for almost any type of enrichment, there’s some benefit, whether physical or cognitive,” Yarze said. “Someone may not be interested in something learning- oriented like a history class. They may want a tennis or dance class. Either would have benefits, but different benefits.”

In addition to increased longevity, cognition and health, Jane Eggleston, chairwoman of programming at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, said that participating in classes can help develop friendships and ideas.

“Osher members tend to be curious and open to new ideas and ‘adventures,’” she said. “They are not people who choose to sit home and watch TV after they retire. These classes offer an opportunity to delve more deeply into a subject which you may be interested in, or a subject you know little about.”

Whether volunteering to lead a class or participating as a student, people at Osher learn more about the topic at hand than they had before, which benefits them mentally.

Osher provides 40 to 60 courses per term, covering topics like history, science, literature, philosophy, personal growth, ethics, music and musicians (classical, opera, jazz, even banjo-playing), art, artists, and galleries, writing, foreign language and current events.

They run from one session of 90 minutes to 12 weeks at up to two hours per week.

Oasis Rochester provides dozens of in-person and remote classes targeting older adults on numerous topics, including fitness, arts, history and technology. Most are an hour long and can last one to 47 sessions, each meeting twice a week to weekly.

In addition to Osher and Oasis, look for enrichment opportunities at local schools. Many schools allow the public to audit classes for free with permission, meaning that they will not take tests or earn credits but can enjoy the knowledge shared. Some provide fee-based enrichment classes targeting older adults.

Cornell Cooperative Extension provides numerous community classes. Although not geared toward a specific age group, they tend to attract adults older than 50 who have the time to join them. Their topics skew towards home-based concepts, such as gardening, nutrition, health and environmental concerns.

Some organization have begun offering enrichment classes —not just educating people who want to make a living at their subject, such as Studio 34 Creative Arts Center (www.studio34artists.com/category/classes) and The Hochstein School (https://hochstein.org/Adults).

The Rochester Brainery (https://rochesterbrainery.com) provides space for organizations providing classes ranging from improv comedy to jewelry making to blacksmithing. Their site also features classes at the off-site venues of partnering organizations. Flower City Arts Center (https://flowercityarts.org/classes) offers classes for all ages but provides some for grown-ups only in numerous media in visual arts.


• Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

• Oasis Rochester

• Cornell Cooperative Extension

• The Hochstein School

• The Rochester Brainery

• Flower City Arts Center

• Studio 34 Creative Arts Center