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Lifelong Learning program brings seniors back to school

by Justin Sullivan - Staff Writer
Tue, Jan 31st 2017 11:00 pm

 As The College at Brockport students return from winter break, some of their new classmates will be adjusting to more than 35 years away from the classroom. Through The College at Brockport's Lifelong Learning program, local senior citizens are allowed to audit a semester-long college class. The cost? A thirst for knowledge. The free program that welcomed 40 local seniors is a part of the college's initiative of timeless learning.

The program began in Fall 2015 with just six participants. Director Jason Dauenhauer, Ph.D., used the Spring 2017 semester to expand the program — offering a wider variety of courses and the option to take part in the college's study abroad program.

"There has been great collaboration with all departments on campus expressing interest in this program," Dauenhauer said. "We actually have more classes open to auditors than we have auditors to fill it."

Dauenhauer serves as the Director of Multigenerational Engagement at Brockport. In his role, Dauenhauer works to foster intergenerational learning experiences between older adults and students. His primary areas of research include elder mistreatment and multigenerational engagement in higher education. Dauenhauer also coordinates the Aging Studies minor and teaches a course on the subject through the Department of Social Work.

"If we can get more community members in classrooms with students, then we can start breaking down some of the negative stereotypes of aging," Dauenhauer said. "These are actually busy people that are choosing to spend their time sitting in a class. They want to engage with people.

According to Dauenhauer, many of the adult students have already completed some form of college education. In fact, the program hosts several retired Brockport faculty.

"The whole idea really blends with the college being an active part of the community," Dauenhauer said. "We see this [as] more of a community benefit."

Through the program, auditors are allowed to audit one class per semester of their choice. While the seniors will not receive a grade or credit, Dauenhauer stresses that they are just like any other student.

"When you audit a class you get a college ID, Brockport email address and learn how to access Blackboard," Dauenhauer said. "All the things students need to be successful is what this audience needs."

Linda Tague, of Ogden, NY never attended Brockport. Tague stepped out her comfort zone this winter session and joined several Brockport students abroad in Ecuador.

"My husband and I have traveled overseas before, but this was a whole different thing for me," Tague said. "I'm one to try things new."

During her time abroad, Tague volunteered at a rural school in there. She helped expand the school's physical education program and taught students English.

Tague chose to return to Brockport for the Spring 2017 semester, auditing "Gender in the Muslim World" through the history department.

"When I was going to college in the 70s, feminism was coming into play," Tague said. "I wanted to get a feel for the differences between when I went to college in the 70s and the way the students now approach things."

Tague graduated with a Bachelor of Science in animal science from Pennsylvania State University in 1974. She went on to receive a second Bachelor of Science in biomedical photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1980.

"The world has really changed so much," Tague said. "I think [through the program] we are learning how to get along with other people better and accept their differences."

While Tague learned about the program through the Brockport Alumni Association's "Morning with the Professors" presentation series; new senior attractions in the community show promises of growth to the program.

The Brockport community will soon be home to the Heritage Square Apartments on Redmann Road behind The College Suites at Brockport. The Town of Sweden complex features 57 independent living apartments, as well as 33 assisted living apartments.

"They approached the college a couple years ago saying 'we are going to build this community, we want to have a stronger relationship with the college'," Dauenhauer said.

Under a 1974 bill signed under former Chancellor Samuel Gould, anyone 60 or over is eligible to audit a SUNY class free of charge. This bill applies to all 64 SUNY campuses. Although this opportunity is far from new, Dauenhauer hopes his role as director will inform local seniors of their chance to return to the classroom.

"Even though this opportunity has always been available, the Lifelong Learning Organization is making it easier," Dauenhauer said.

Despite the fact that the seniors auditing will do so for free, the Lifelong Learning organization offers something for everybody to learn — regardless of age.

"Getting older adults and students together in an educational setting where they are engaging is where integration starts," Dauenhauer said. "Diversity of age also brings a diversity of experience."  



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