As the sun filters into Tod Hall on a recent Friday morning, a group of enthusiastic students begins to gather.
They have nothing in their ears, nothing attached to their palms. They instead show interest in each other, in conversation and, a little, in pastries and coffee.
They are here to attend a lecture on culture and customs of the Victorian era, presented by Dr. David Simonelli of the Youngstown State University history department.
They will receive no credit, be assigned no homework. But once this group of people attaches their name tags and takes a seat, they become the most attentive, receptive listeners.
This is the Institute of Learning in Retirement series, which includes 15 Friday morning lectures throughout the school year. Along with program director / developer Melvin North of the YSU Metro College, a committee of members in this series has chosen a variety of topics about which to learn.
"There are a lot of things going on with older Americans in education," North said. "Today, I would say 90 percent of the people that go to ILR are computer literate, are online, have social network accounts.
The Ohio Department of Aging offers the following suggestions for lifelong learning opportunities and resources. Several national, state, community and other organizations provide diverse opportunities for older Ohioans to engage in lifelong learning through a variety of programs and experiences:
l Adult Workforce Education and Training Network
l County and municipal parks and recreation programs
l OASIS (Akron and Cleveland)
l Ohio State Parks
l Road Scholar (Formerly Elderhostel)
l Senior centers
Also from the Ohio Department of Aging are a few of the Ohio institutions that offer courses to residents age 60 and older at no cost. Participation is limited to classes with space available and must be approved by the instructor. In most cases, no college credit is earned and some costs (such as books, equipment and lab fees) may apply. Contact the admissions or registrar's office of a participating college or university for more details. Be sure to ask about class availability at regional and affiliated campuses near you.
l University of Akron, 60 Plus (60+) Program
l Cleveland State University, Project 60
l Cuyahoga Community College,
l Eastern Gateway Community
College, Senior Citizens
l Kent State University, Senior Guest Program
l Lorain County Community College, Senior Citizen Registration
l Youngstown State University, College for the Over Sixty
"They're savvy," he said. "The average age for ILR is 80, which blew my mind, because they don't look it."
Margaret Lorimer of Boardman is on the committee. She said one of the group's favorite presenters is in the ethics field, and question-and-answer sessions can get quite lively.
"The group is very interested in learning, keeps their minds sharp and wants to know what's going on," she said.
Another group of women, who also attend the Trumbull Town Hall series, said they enjoyed a presentation about China given by students and a professor.
Dr. Edward Amicucci of Warren, at 80 years old, continues to attend conferences, even though he is retired as a psychologist. He is a licensed independent chemical dependency counselor and now performs his work pro bono.
Through his research and observations, Amicucci has sought to find what causes older people to be less depressed. He observed residents of 15 different nursing homes and said he saw many people sitting in wheelchairs, not doing anything at all.
"Those that engaged themselves with other patients and began to talk to others were actually less depressed and had less reduction of cognitive facilities those who weren't actively engaged," he said.
Amicucci recommends that retirees plan ahead to do activities.
"Right after you retire, that's when you sit down and you get depressed," he said.
He's also a fan of the "use it or lose it" philosophy. For example, how many high school graduates could go back and excel on an algebra test today?
Amicucci isn't picky about getting involved - he says you don't have to take an anthropology class. Even going to McDonalds for coffee and conversation "with the guys" three times a week, which he does, is beneficial. He also stays physically fit, saying the treadmill is a good place to think.
"Our world shrinks as we get older. We lose people in our lives, we're not doing the activities with them that we used to," he said. "We need to take the opportunities to experience new things and rethink new ways, which retains the creativity and challenge the brain needs."
In addition to the ILR, YSU is among Ohio universities that offer the College for the Over Sixty, in which that age group can take classes for free.
And what are these students interested in?
"They're taking everything that's literally under the sun and that's available," North said.
He knows of a couple that attends together, taking turns choosing their courses. Another man takes only math classes, and yet another completed a degree in geology. Some take music classes. And there are as many men as there are women, he said.
Charles Reid of Poland said one of his favorite courses was on the history of organized crime. Judy Passarelli, also of Poland, enjoys religion and history courses.
"It is something that allows us to return to the educational process that does not involve many of the burdens from high school and perhaps university days," said Randy Jones, a retired teacher from Boardman.
The trio likes that they can choose how involved to become - listen and leave, or join in. They said they ask the professor what he or she would prefer.
"Our time frame is large enough that there is something to be added to social science classes," Jones said, also recognizing that people of a certain age already have a tendency to talk and tell stories.
Kathryn Spillman of New Waterford is 95 and a member of the ILR series. She and friend Deri Eberhard of Salem met through the Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) program, another opportunity for learning and travel in retirement. Spillman was a teacher, a librarian and a 4-H leader.
"I want to keep my brain from rotting," she said. "I love learning, I love school - I always have," she said.