Seniors & Aging

University program keeps seniors' intellects invloved

Local senior citizens interested in keeping mentally sharp often find their way to the classes offered by the Academy for Lifelong Learning, a volunteer-organized program at Western Washington University.

"I ferreted it out within two months of getting to Bellingham four years ago," says Dale Rings, 67, who is in his third year as chair of the 11-year-old organization. A retired health care administrator who worked for many years at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he says, "I quickly realized there were at least a half-dozen courses I wanted to take."

Though ALL welcomes adults of all ages, former Lynden High School teacher, counselor and coach Leon Golden, who has served for a decade as director, — says more than 90 percent of the more than 300 active members are either in retirement or near retirement.

"There are lots of like-minded people who want to stay sharp and keep learning," says Caroline Yaude, 82, a former teacher and coun-selor.

Donna Rochon, 70, who taught at Western Washington University and directed the math center for 16 years, enjoys the way ALL keeps her mentally challenged. "It's just a lot of fun," she says.


Marty Haines, 69, a retired insurance broker, loves how he can challenge himself in areas he has never studied.

"I'm really curious by nature, and I don't mind learning about anything that might interest me," he says.

ALL members offer tips to seniors who want to find better ways to retain mental acuity.

"One of the things I've tried to do all my life is to learn something new every day," says Bill Baldwin, 74, who has an extensive back-ground as an agronomist. "You have to stay connected with your community and what's happening. And stay in touch with younger people."

For example, Baldwin recalls how rewarded he felt when he used his background in agricultural research and education to help stu-dents at Ferndale's Windward High School to design a garden.

"Get involved," says Yaude, pointing out how she keeps sharp with activities such as serving on the Guide Meridian Cordata Neighborhood committee. "There are lots of opportunities to serve on neighborhood committees."


Rochon tells seniors that staying sharp involves more than exercising the mind.

"Keeping physically fit, or getting fit, is very important," she says.

Haines says trying new activities is vital.

"I retired so I would have time to do more interesting things than I was doing," he says. "The last 10 years (in retirement) have been the best decade of my life."