Senior centers have long been gathering places for residents, providing companionship along with practical services such as health checkups, fitness classes, and home-delivered meals.
Fifteen years ago, however, the Duxbury Senior Center began offering a different kind of program for a different need: intellectual stimulation.
“The mission of the LifeLong Learning program is to provide adults with the opportunity to participate in in-depth learning that is close to their homes and affordable,” said senior center director Joanne Moore.
“That ‘back to school’ vibe is strong here,” media manager Brooke McDonough said before the fall session began this month.
While the program is administered by the town’s senior center, its class offerings are open to everyone from all communities and of all ages.
“We love seeing friends and neighbors reconnect and new friendships forged through these classes,” Moore said. “There is nothing better than seeing friends make plans together after class!”
“You don’t have to be a senior,” McDonough added. “But that’s who they were designed for.”
This fall, the program is offering 15 courses in subject areas such as history, current events, religion, science, art, and literature. Among them are a class on the interplay of religion and education, “When Jesus Came to Harvard;” a class on the history of Western art, “Stone Age Through the Renaissance;” and a class on the cinematic genre called “Film Noir.”
The course curriculum is the work of a LifeLong Learning Committee, consisting of nine volunteers plus four town staff. The committee relies on feedback from participants in previous semesters to offer new courses on subjects of interest.
“The committee members will find an instructor from the community who has a passion for the subject and is willing to teach,” McDonough said.
Many of the instructors teach year after year, repeating popular courses and proposing new ones. Over the program’s lifespan, 368 classes have been offered.
Other offerings this fall include a class on Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer’s Night Dream;” a class on American musicals and big bands; a literature course on “The Seven Deadly Sins;” and a class based on readings in “The New Yorker.” Also classes on poetry, Duxbury’s Pilgrim heritage, geological history, Russian cultural history, the Anglo-American alliance during the 1940s; and classes devoted to James Thurber, Thomas Edison, and “hot topics” on Beacon Hill.
Jack Hill, a former Duxbury High School principal, teaches “When Jesus Came to Harvard,” a class available online, along with Rev. Catherine Cullen, the minister of Duxbury’s First Parish Church. Hill, who has also taught offerings on major literary figures such as Wordsworth, Emerson, and Irish poet Seamus Heaney, began teaching the “Jesus to Harvard” class in 2008; each year it attracts new participants. Cullen previously taught “How to Read the Bible.”
Last year’s pandemic-driven turn to online courses has added flexibility and extended the program’s reach. In previous years, participation was largely limited to South Shore residents for reasons of distance. Online class participants can live anywhere.
Instructors come from all over the South Shore region, McDonough said. Stephanie Blackman of Whitman, who is teaching “The Literature of the Seven Deadly Sins,” began teaching with the program two years ago.
Former history teacher Carrie Meier, who has taught a class called “Reading Shakespeare” since 2008, picks a different play for each session.
“Hot Topics on Beacon Hill” is a popular class led by the town’s state representatives, Josh Cutler and Kathleen LaNatra, and Senator Patrick O’Connor. “It’s a good class for people who want to stay informed,” McDonough said.
While the fall semester began the week of Sept. 20, registrations will still be accepted for classes that are not already filled. If you’re interested in picking up a class in its second week, call the Duxbury Senior Center at 781-934-5774, ext. 5703, or drop by the office at 10 Mayflower St. Online registration closed on Sept. 16. For the list of available classes, including course descriptions and information about instructors, visit duxburyseniorcenter.org.
The cost is $30 for each class. Class size ranges from eight to 25, with a size limit for in-person classes that depends on the size of the classroom in the town’s senior center. A new addition was added just two years ago. In-person class sizes have been reduced this year to allow for social distancing.
Robert Knox can be reached at email@example.com.