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Young at Heart and Mind

Senior College a hit with region’s lifelong learners

Donna Allen has a new appreciation for the sounds of nature.

During a Bridgewater State Senior College class on birding, Allen learned to listen to bird calls. But that’s far from the only benefit.

“It has gotten me more involved and enthusiastic to meet new people,” the Middleboro resident said of Senior College. “One of the easiest things for us to do is to isolate, and that’s not a good thing. ... I don’t want to be a sit-at-home old lady.”

Allen has taken Senior College classes for two years. The initiative, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, began with just eight classes and 100 members. Now, it offers about 50 courses a semester to around 400 members, with goals to expand even further.

The growth occurred despite a global pandemic that forced all courses to go virtual. Even amid social distancing, Senior College continued to provide invaluable connections, Director Jen Reid said.

“Science has proven that socialization and relationships are key to active aging,” Dr. Reid said. “That’s why we started.”

Today, Senior College courses take place online, on campus, and at off-campus sites in Bridgewater, Easton and Plymouth. The college is expanding to the Hingham Center for Active Living this fall.

Members can enroll in as many courses as they like for a per-semester fee, and scholarships are available. They also have access to BSU services such as the library and fitness center.

“We’re teaching everything from democracy to drones,” President Frederick W. Clark Jr., ’83, told members at a summer gathering, adding: “We’re always trying to raise the bar. These programs are really, really great and they keep shifting and changing thanks to our amazing faculty.”

While there are no exams or grades, Senior College instructor Michael Kryzanek said the courses help participants become more engaged members of our global society.

“It’s about this journey of self-improvement, curiosity and skill development,” said the retired BSU political science professor. “That is so important for all people.”

Susan Luscombe, of Weymouth, even learned to play the ukulele through a Senior College class. It was her first foray into learning an instrument.

“I’m thrilled with this program,” she said. “I’m so glad I found it. I will be coming forever and ever.”

For Allen, who has taken political science and history courses in addition to the birding class, Senior College offered a new connection to her grandsons, who are Bridgewater students.

After she received her BSU student ID, Allen proudly texted them, proclaiming: “I am now one of the Bears!”

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