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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Age, The Arts & Education: Programs for Older Adults

By ANGELA WAMPLER | August 26, 2008

Participants are usually retirees, but classes are open to anyone age 50 or older. Programs offer courses across a wide spectrum of subjects, ranging from historical and cultural topics to the practical and contemporary.

? The College for Older Adults at Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon has enrolled more than 5,500 students since its inception in 1999. Attendees pay a $35 membership fee which entitles them to take one or more courses — free. Passes for the Arts Array series are an additional $10. What makes COA unique is that all the instructors, presenters, and coaches are volunteers — more than 1,300 of them over the past nine years! To register, call 276-619-4300 or visit You may also register online with a credit card:

? At Virginia Intermont College, whose motto is "pursue your passion," older adults pay a one-time membership fee of $10 to gain access to free auditing of courses and use of the college library, fitness center and other resources. The program is more than 1,000 members strong, and the college gains from a pool of volunteers who help at campus events and have even taken on fundraising campaigns. For more information, call the Advancement Office at 276-466-7988.

? East Tennessee State University offers a program for senior adults through its Alliance for Continuing Learning (ACL), with classes and lectures on its Johnson City and Kingsport campuses. In addition, short trips are sometimes scheduled to the North Carolina homes of Carl Sandburg and Thomas Wolfe, the nearby ETSU and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum at the Gray Fossil Site, and other locations. For a $45 fee, students may select as many courses as they wish to attend. For more information, call 423-439-8266 (Johnson City) or 423-392-8001 (Kingsport).

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MEET LOCAL SENIORS who are passionate about The Arts and education.

ALMA RIGBY, 73, can usually be found taking one of Virginia Intermont's classes for seniors: "I love to do things with young people."

JOAN HORSCH, 76, has participated in the Arts Array Film Discussions for 10 years: "The film discussions are really interesting because someone else always sees something you didn't see or has an extremely different impression of what the ending means."

REBECCA HARRINGTON, 64, has been swept away in The Barter Experience: "I almost didn't go see Dracula, thinking 'how many times do I need to see that production?' But I went to the theatre and I'm so glad I did."

CAROL BELL, 67, joins in discussions at SVHEC about women writers: "Some people mention other books. Everyone does away with news things to read and a new focus on the Appalachian region and the writers."

--ANNE ARMENTROUT, 60, loves words so Improvisation & Creative Movement is right up her alley: "The class provides exercises not only for the body, but also for the mind and imagination."

SEAN O'SULLIVAN, 87, views the College for Older Adults as "a jewel in the mountains." He says, "It's like a social mixer, also. I've met people there that I would not have met otherwise."

Age, The Arts & Education.

BACK to the main story: "The Arts & the Brains of Older Adults."