Lecture series seeks to help make seniors Lifelong Learners

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Just because you get older doesn’t mean you have to stop learning, and for the past two years, a local lecture series has helped prove that.
The Lifelong Learners lecture series brings in people to speak on a diverse range of topics since its inception two years ago.
Around 2013, program co-founder Avenelle Oberlin said she was at a meeting of the Community and Seasoned Citizens when a new member, Carol Bean, mentioned a lifelong learners program offered at a university in her previous town. The school offered classes at local places like the YMCA, library and retirement homes.
Finally, in 2015, the program started at the Marysville Early College High School. The school’s relationship with Otterbein allowed them to get professors to speak.
“Some of them were already there,” she said.
The topics range widely. This year, the program has seen three speakers: Bob Whitman speaking on Jimmy Doolittle’s raid over Tokyo, Tony Eufinger giving a talk on estate planning and Suzanna Kienbaum on letters sent home from Civil War soldiers.
Oberlin said as long as someone has an interesting topic to talk about, they’re welcome to ask for a chance to present.
“It could be anyone we can find to speak,” she said.
This year attendance has ranged from 40 to 60 people. The presentations are free, and even though they’re more geared toward older residents, anyone is free to come regardless of age.
Last April, it was discovered that Otterbein is pulling out from the school. At the May meeting, the board that oversees the program met to discuss what the next step would be.
“Why don’t we just go with local people?” she said. “It was too late to get involved in another college or university to start to plan for the fall.”
Oberlin singled out Marysville Schools Superintendent Diane Mankins as someone who’s helped the program since then. According to Oberlin, Mankins is interested in the group.
“I think most teachers are,” Oberlin said. “It’s learning (and) education. It’s opportunities to continue to learn.”
Mankins said she’d ask speakers who come to the school to talk for the lifelong learners program, according to Oberlin. Columbus State has also reportedly expressed interest in assisting with the lecture series.
With Otterbein leaving the picture, the program is evolving.
The lecture locations are no longer confined at the Early College High School.
The next three dates are at Bluebird Retirement Community on Feb. 16, March 15 and April 19. Oberlin also said she’d like to be able to offer longer classes on more complex topics. During a talk on computers, attendees had so many questions that the speaker couldn’t get to them all.
According to Oberlin, topics like those lend themselves to a more involved class.
“There is so much to know and so many things to practice and learn,” she said.
Oberlin said the lectures make older residents feel as if they’re truly learning something new. Many older people become complacent in their waning years, despite the fact that “life continues,” according to Oberlin.
“So many people just retire and sit down and watch television all day,” she said. “They just don’t do anything … but I think the people who come really are interested in learning more about their environment, what’s happening in their lives.”
In the flyer advertising the next three lecture dates, there are no speakers or subjects announced.
Oberlin said the board is discussing Bo Johnstone, a war historian with the Union County Historical Society, as a possible speaker for the spring.
“We just look for good people who have a story to tell, or and interesting hobby, or something that other people would like to learn about,” she said.



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