Elder Quest keeps the learning curve from retiring
By Greg Bennett
Dr. Weldon Moffitt engages peers in his “The World & I” class.
On a July afternoon, Barbara Willes – a 76-year-old former teacher – joins 14 friends for a discussion on current events ranging from HBO programming to the political climate of Estonia.
The discussion is part of a class called “The World and I,” which is affiliated with the Elder Quest program, sponsored by UVSC.
“I love the classes,” Willes says. “They offer a chance for me to continue to use my brain and to socialize with other retired people in a way that helps me improve my life.”
The current events class, like each of the other 10 offered as part of the Elder Quest curriculum, is peer-taught and peer-led.
Dr. Weldon Moffitt, a former BYU professor with a Ph.D. in philosophy, spends 90 minutes a week in class discussing a variety of issues with fellow-retirees.
The classes are part of a larger goal the group – which numbers close to 200 members – has of providing learning opportunities for people in retirement.
“The program provides us with a chance to discuss ideas and listen to different perspectives,” says Roger West, age 69. “It offers stimulation for conversation and friendships.”
Besides the 11 classes – ranging from Shakespeare to Music Appreciation – that are taught on the semester schedule correlating with UVSC’s semesters, the program offers tours of areas of interest and is also part of the nationwide organization, Elderhostel.
Elderhostel offers members a chance to use resources at other Elderhostel locations.
If a member travels to Southern California, for example, he or she can meet with an Elderhostel representative from that area and will be housed and transported from area to area as part of the cooperation.
Dr. Richard Reiser and his wife, Frances, plan the local tours. In the past, the group has visited Promontory Point, Silver City and Nine-Mile Canyon. This fall the group is scheduled to take an educational tour of the cathedrals of Salt Lake City.
“I’ve lived in Utah since the 1950s and I’d never seen the Golden Spike until we went there as a group,” says Joan Hahn, Elder Quest president.
The classes are not for credit and no grades are awarded, which provides for an open and relaxed environment while still encouraging members to think, evaluate and study.
“We learn from each other,” says curriculum director and past president Phyllis Hansen, age 76. “We each have unique experiences and expertise in different areas that make the classes interesting.”
Classes are held at the Orem Friendship Center and the Provo Eldred Center. Membership is $35 and all classes are free for members. There is a $10 per class charge for non-members.
Members have visited locations throughout Utah, including Promontory Point.
Members are also invited to participate in current events luncheons held each month.
“The luncheon offers a chance to listen to interesting people on a variety of subjects,” Hahn says.
Although the social and academic benefits may be obvious, Hansen believes it’s the self-improvement aspect that is the key to the group.
“So many people believe the myth that what I do is who I am,” she says. “With that thinking, then after retirement, they aren’t anybody. We give people chances to learn and serve.”
Hansen recalls asking one member to lead a class in his area of expertise.
The member was sick and wasn’t sure he could make it to every class.
After working out the wrinkles, he taught the class and later thanked Hansen for not only asking him to teach, but also giving him a reason to live.
“Retirement isn’t a time to just wait until you die,” Hansen says. “It’s a chance to create new opportunities and continue improving yourself.”
Many members also appreciate the sense of belonging Elder Quest offers. Retired people who move to Utah County enjoy the chance to broaden horizons and participate in activities with friends their own age.
“When you work you are part of the workplace community,” Hahn says. “Elder Quest provides a new community.”
The future looks bright for the group. Elder Quest is incorporating e-mail alerts about events of interest from around the county. Hahn believes there are many events – some of which are free – that would be interesting to members if they only knew when they were.
“We’re hoping to raise awareness of some of these activities through the alerts,” she says. “UVSC has a variety of activities that would be interesting, and BYU shows foreign films you can’t see anywhere else in the country. Many of our members love watching foreign films.”
While membership is growing, Hansen believes there is room for many more.
“For the area we serve we should have double the number of members,” she says.
Elder Quest is the only group associated with Elderhostel in Utah.
For more information, contact Ernest Krey at UVSC’s Center for Lifelong Learning at (801) 863-8398 or firstname.lastname@example.org.