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Dr. Alex Nagel, research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, teaches an archaeology course at the Lifelong Learning Institute.

Could chocolate be good for you? This is just one of the topics covered in a course devoted to chocolate—and yes, students get to taste. The class includes a visit to SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier in Gaithersburg, owned by Montgomery College alumnus Eric Reid and his wife.

The new course, For Chocolate Lovers: History, Tales, and Benefits, is just one of nearly 150 classes offered this spring at the Lifelong Learning Institute. Topics range from personal finance to art history to understanding the latest conflicts in the Middle East.

Although designed for students aged 50 and over, anyone is welcome. Working adults can attend evening classes; people who are retired or have flexible schedules often attend daytime courses. Options range from a one-time lecture to a full-credit semester course and everything in between.

Natasha Sacks, program director for the Lifelong Learning Institute, says retirement is hardly about slowing down. “It is a productive stage of life,” she says. “People want to continue to learn, stay engaged, enrich themselves, and be cognitively active.”

Sally Alkire, who takes classes and volunteers at the center, is one such student. I love academia and the stimulation from the classes and the students. They are not all seniors, and they come because they are interested in the subjects. I learn a lot from the participants, too.”

Carol and Myron Fliegel started taking classes after they retired and have studied everything from archaeology to the U.S. election process. “It’s a good experience, a nice thing to do have if you have the time and [it’s] not terribly expensive,” says Myron Fliegel.

Jeff Miller agrees. He is both a student and a teacher, overseeing one of the most popular classes called A.S.K. (Adults Seeking Knowledge); each week, an expert from a different field presents a lecture.

“You can try new things. Whatever you are interested in, you can find it.” — Jeff Miller

“The College has so many wonderful programs and seminars and workshops. You can try new things. Whatever you are interested in, you can find it,” Miller says.

Sometimes a course does much more. One student who enrolled in a course titled Get Hired at Age 50+ did just that. A few months after completing the course, she found a new position at a local hospital. In a note to her instructor, she said, “The job search techniques you taught us really did work…and I am eternally grateful.”

Students in the institute are also learning techniques for getting and staying physically fit. This spring, they will be in the gym and the pool—practicing yoga, learning self-defense, swimming, and doing water exercises.

LLI Program Director Sacks says whether you are learning in the classroom or working out in the pool, at the Lifelong Learning Institute you can find “your strength, your future, and your passion.”