The Ecphorizer

Back To School
Paul W. Healy

Issue #19 (March 1983)

How would you like to go back to school - but one where there are no tests, no grades, and no outside preparation? If this sounds too good to be true, let me assure you it is not. The only requirement is that you (or your companion) be at least 60 years of age.

[quoteright]A Continuing Education Program called Elderhostel has been in existence some dozen years. My wife and I first experienced it during a week this past January at Southern Oregon State College, Ashland. From conversations with other Elderhostellers we gathered that this was one of the best run and most enjoyable.

We arrived in Ashland on a Sunday afternoon, and after dining in the college cafeteria we were introduced to the other participants and told what to expect during the week. An expert calligrapher had prepared our badges, which we wore the whole time. The Elderhostellers were housed in a separate wing of typical college dormitory rooms - two beds, two dressers, two study tables in each one. Men's toilets and showers were on one floor, women's on another. We had a private lounge and our own classroom, but ate in the cafeteria with the younger students (bussing our own dishes to the automatic washer). The food was plentiful and nourishing, although not always hot. The staff was unfailingly pleasant and helpful.

Activities were strictly voluntary, although Elderhostellers are required to attend at least one class a day. Our first morning class was Creative Writing, taught with easy informality by Professor Lawsdon Inada of the college English Department.

Afternoon activities included a class on wine and wine-making, with a visit to a local winery. Among the highlights of the week were the evening classes on the poetry of Robert Frost conducted by actress Margaret Rubin of the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. Her readings of Frost's verses and her explanations of the influence of his mother, wife and friends on his work were expounded with real affection for the poet. In addition, there were numerous expeditions and field tripe, both on the campus and off.

Most Elderhostels are held in summer, when campuses have fewer regular students. There is at least one in each of the fifty states and most of the Canadian provinces. Fifteen universities in Great Britain offer programs on a wide variety of subjects. In this country the fee is $180 per person for one week, including room, board, and tuition. Southern Oregon State has 45 weeks of Elderhostel classes each year. In addition, they offer five 10-day "Senior ventures" in connection with the Shakespeare Festival, with a lower age limit of 55. The all-inclusive fee (including five plays) is $345.

If you meet the age requirement, there are probably many of these programs you would enjoy. For further information, you can write to: Elderhostel, 100 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. For information on the Shakespeare programs, write to Senior Ventures, Siskiyou Center, Southern Oregon State College.  Ashland OR 97520. 

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Paul Healy