One of the fairly prevalent misconceptions about aging is that older people cannot learn new things, or at least not easily. Studies of mental functioning do not draw this conclusion.
While there is evidence of some slowing down, this is a minor matter. Learning can indeed be lifelong. Furthermore, since factors other than I.Q. are always involved in successful learning - motivation and experience, for example - older persons mat even have some advantages over their younger counterparts.
In both Montgomery and Prince George's counties the departments of adult education regularly distribute to every home an extensive list of course and workshop offerings that older persons may attend free of charge. Classes are generally scheduled in the evening, meeting one or more days a week at neighborhood schools throughout the county. Offerings are far-ranging, including art, business, home economics, industrial arts, language (including English for speakers of other languages, recreation, social studies and many others. Admission is by identification cards issued by the county offices on aging.
Having taken a course in Montgomery County recently, I can share a personal experience. The course was called "Significant Comtemporary American Novels." We read five novels, one every two weeks. There was first an introduction by the instructor, including information about the life and times of the author. After we had read a given novel there was discussion by the class of about 15 persons including two senior citizens, each participant free to share interpretation of the work, its symbolism and style, its meaning and its message.
After the class was over the group decided to become a book club, meeting once a month to share other readings in members' homes. The instructor said that previous classes had done the same thing. The experience opened doors for all of us in continuing education and personal growth.
Watch for the announcement of classess that will be delivered to your home in late August. It contains all the information you will need about the classes.
Besides the adult education offerings, seniors are invited to participate in the educational programs of the community colleges where offferings range from accounting to zoology.Residents aged 60 and over are admitted free of tuition when a class has at least 10 regular registrants. Further information is available from the college offices. In Montgomery County, the number to call is 762-7400; in Prince George's County the number is 336-6000.
Both community college systems offer a variety of educational experiences through their Community Services branch. These free offerings are usually noncredit and are taken out into the community at such locations as community centers and nursing homes, depending upon demand. Whenever and wherever a group - 15 recommemded - of seniors desires a particular educational experience, the outreach arm of the community college will attempt to bring it to them.
Beginning in the fall the University of Maryland will offer free university registration to retired Maryland residents at the campuses in College Park, Catonsville, Princess Anne and University College. This arrangement, known as the Golden Identification Card Program, brings the entire resourses of the university system, except the professional schools in Baltimore, to any retired Maryland senior citizen. For the undergraduate courses, not even a high school diploma is required. For graduate courses, individuals must have a bachelor's degree or acceptance for advanced study.
The Golden I.D. Card for the College Park campus is obtainable in person or by mail from the Admissions Office, University of Maryland, College Park, Md., 20742. This card will allow entry, on a space-available basis, to any credit course, daytime or evening, and to many student events. It also allows use of libraries and other academic facilities. The program is approved on a two-year traial basis by the board of regents. For more information call 454-5550.
In the Washington area another continuing education apportunity is afforded by the Institute of Lifetime Learning, a nonprofit educational institution offering daytime courses for adults with no age or membership requirements. Programs are developed and conducted by the Graduate School, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and sponsored by the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons. Fees in the winter 1977 term range from $14 to $30 per course, but scholarships are available for all courses and workshops. Offerings that cover such fields as foreign languages, arts, great books, lip reading and sign language are scheduled in about a dozen locations in the District of Columbia, one location in Northern Virginian and one in suburban Maryland.
One of the unusual offerings of the institute is "courses by newspaper." The "lectures" for these courses are articles carried by The Washington Post Maryland Weekly. Discussion sessions led by academic coordinators are arrange. The 1977 winter schedule included one courses on the oceans and one on moral choices. During the coming year "Crime and Justice will be offered begining Sept. 22, 1977. For latest information call 447-633 or write to Institute of Lifetime Learning, Graduate School, Room 1031, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.