LifeLongLearning equals life-long living. Participants in a recent four-week geology course ended their field trip in Luckenbach.
Photo by Marianne Reese
In 2014, Marianne Reese, a retired professor at Texas State University, returned from a 1,200 mile road trip with her husband from Naples, Fla., where the couple received unexpected inspiration. While in Florida, they attended a few adult learning classes, and on their way home, they discussed the fact that San Marcos didn’t currently have that level of senior outreach.
“Most towns with large universities have adult outreach programs. That’s when I opened my eyes and realized San Marcos needs something like that,” Reese said.
Therefore she set about to create Life-LongLearning. “We weren’t doing a lot for that community, so I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do.”
The mission of LifeLongLearning is to offer a variety of free or low-cost courses to allow adult learners to meet new people, stimulate their minds and learn new information and skills. Upon its inception, LifeLongLearning operated as an outreach program developed for the Retired Faculty/Staff Association within the university. Within three years, however, Reese saw the need to expand the scope of the program, and in 2017, she moved to make LifeLong-Learning a nonprofit organization.
This gave Reese greater autonomy and the ability to foster connections within the community.
“Since 2017, I quickly developed a relationship with the San Marcos Activity Center and their venues, especially for art classes where space was needed and you don’t need to worry about keeping carpets cleaned,” Reese said. “That was really lovely.”
Reese also made contact with the San Marcos Public Library, where LifeLongLearning classes could be held free of charge.
With these aspects in place, Reese is able to spend her time and energy on finding instructors and building a course curriculum to meet the needs of the community.
“My job is to scout out people who can use their jobs and skills to teach,” Reese said.
LifeLongLearning endeavors to offer a broad range of courses to its students – everything from bowling to physics to an upcoming geology class set to begin in October. Because many of the classes are offered during the day, they are generally ideal for retirees, although the program also offers evening classes, which attracts a broader range of students.
“Yes, it is geared to the older population,” Reese said. “The average age of the person coming in is around 68. We have some 80-plus year olds, but we have a few 30s drop in for an art class once in a while.”
The social aspect of the classes is another important draw for this age range because it fills a niche for the recently retired. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, “There are a lot of social benefits related to working: You’re more active, you’re more engaged, you’re talking with your peers, and so on. Losing those when you retire can be harsh.”
Reese certainly concurs. “When you first retire, you’re kind of lost,” she said. “You’ve lost your identity and what you do every day and why you get up. It’s an adjustment.”
The Harvard Business Review study found that staying active and socially engaged helps people maintain their cognitive and physical abilities. LifeLongLearning’s four- to six-week courses are geared to help people in the community to do just that.
“The social aspect of LifeLongLearning allows for more relationships to be developed between participants,” Reese said. “There are some lovely people going out and having lunch afterwards. There are all sorts of side benefits to what we do.”
With LifeLongLearning, there are no tests or quizzes, just learning. The courses are taught by local experts in their fields, and range in topics from book studies, art and painting, writing, history and sciences to board and card games, bowling and personal wellness. Additionally, Reese is always open to ideas for future classes, and welcomes suggestions and questions via email at lifelonglearningsm@ gmail. com.
For a full list of Life-LongLearning courses, visit the website at lllsanmarcos. org/ or call the San Marcos Activity Center 512-393-8280.