By Estelle R. Brown
Learning for a Lifetime (L4L) is a highly-anticipated annual event held jointly by Kent State University at Geauga and the Geauga County Department on Aging (GDA). It provides local seniors the opportunity to go back to college for a day… not for credit; just for fun. The full day of classes features topics ranging from designing flyers, to historical events, to creating a budget, and health care subjects, all taught by Kent State Geauga faculty and area
experts. “We bring in local historians, shop owners, UH Geauga Medical staff, radio DJs… we even had a former GDA staff member who used to be Amish speak on why she chose to leave the Amish community and what her life was like. Anyone who has a passion and factual knowledge is fair game to teach a class,” says Natalie Dolezal, L4L event coordinator and Recreation & Education Coordinator at GDA’s Bainbridge Senior Center.
While the popular event was postponed in recent years due to the COVID pandemic, it made a successful return with more than100 seniors participating at the Kent State Geauga campus on August 19, 2022… a few months behind its typical time frame in May, after Kent State’s graduation ceremonies. Working in coordination with Kent State Geauga’s Marketing & Community Engagement Manager Amy Murfello, Dolezal says, “We ended up with 102 seniors signing up, which I’m rather pleased with after a two-year hiatus. People are still a bit nervous; COVID still exists, and crowds can be scary. So yes, we had less people than what we were used to, but it was still a great turnout. I think they were just happy to be back!” Murfello adds, “I find this event valuable because we are in the business of educating our community, and to have so many lifelong learners enjoy the day of educational courses fulfills our mission.”
BACK IN COLLEGE FOR A DAY
At the annual L4L event, the morning starts with a check-in process and continental breakfast followed by three hour-long educational sessions. After two morning sessions, participants enjoy a boxed lunch, and then attend the last session of the day. With six presenters per session, a wide range of subject matter is offered, with something of interest for every senior. “We have speakers who are returning champions because our seniors love them, and we are
fortunate that they have a multitude of subjects to present on. But it’s always fun to find someone new who has something different to bring to the table. It’s very satisfying to look at the final schedule and to see how varied the topics are,” Dolezal explains.
Learning for a Lifetime made its debut in 2008 and Dolezal has been managing it since 2017, handling registrations, classroom assignments and speakers. By 2019, more than190 seniors participated… the biggest attendance yet. “It’s a labor of love, but what makes it all worth it is when the seniors are done for the day and they have the biggest smiles on their faces,” Dolezal says. “They are truly appreciative of the work that goes into the event, of the people who volunteer their time, and the new information that they learn. Also, when the speakers come out of the classrooms saying, ‘I’d love to come back!’ it’s absolutely a testament to a good day, for sure!”
WHY SENIORS LOVE L4L
Gayle and Larry Tomko, long-time Munson Township residents, missed L4L during the past two COVID summers. “Every year, we see people we know at the event and have had fun making new acquaintances,” they say. Linda Richard adds, “My parents instilled in me the fact that ‘learning, is indeed, a lifetime adventure.’ Every L4L class I attend, I inherit more knowledge. Just because we are seniors does not stop our quest for knowledge. L4L is a welcome intellectual gift to our seniors in Geauga County.”
Geauga resident Polly Feldman says, “Learning for a Lifetime is a wonderful program. Every class I have attended has been very worthwhile. Seniors love to keep learning and this program affords the opportunity to learn new things and expand knowledge.” Mary Ann Sheranko adds, “We seniors in Geauga County are so fortunate to have such an outstanding department on aging. The Lifetime Learning activity provided a wonderful variety of stimulating and current informational topics as well as a healthy and delicious lunch. All the center directors work so hard to make these many memorable experiences possible.” Ultimately, “I think it’s fair to say that just because we age, that doesn’t mean we lose our sense of curiosity,” Dolezal says. “These seniors still have a thirst for knowledge, for those tidbits of information that they’ve never heard before.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
“We love having seniors participate and providing them with these great events, so we make it as easy as possible!” Dolezal says. While a date for next year’s L4L event has not been set yet, promotions will start a few months beforehand, with flyers at senior centers (West Geauga, Bainbridge, Middlefield and Chardon), and notices in the Geauga County Department on Aging (GDA) newsletter and website. Any senior age 60 or older can sign up for L4L if they are registered with GDA. Geauga County residents can register with GDA for free, but there is a nominal extra fee for the L4L event. For those out of county, an annual $25 fee allows seniors access to senior center programs, activities, trips and events such as L4L (on a first-come, first-served basis).
For those needing transportation, Geauga County Transit is available. Just call to schedule the ride. Vouchers are available to Geauga County seniors through GDA for help with payment.
“Everyone at Kent State Geauga, from Amy and her staff to the instructors to the IT people and custodial staff — I couldn’t ask for a better team to work in conjunction with. It helps to know that there are trustworthy people who just want to put on a great program, and who will do anything to make it work,” Dolezal says. “Our seniors are perceptive; they can see how people work together. I think they can see that GDA and Kent State Geauga work well together, and that allows them to have a more enjoyable experience when they know we are ultimately here for them!” Murfello concurs, “A lot of hard work goes into planning the day’s activities, but seeing the smiles and comments from the senior citizen attendees and the faculty teaching the courses makes it all worth it! We’re excited to continue hosting this event, year after year.”