School is in session

Learning never ends at Brooksby Village

Sara Martin
January 23, 2020

Want to take an economics class? Have an interest in American literature? Curious about cribbage?

You don't have to go back to college to explore topics that pique your interest. At Brooksby Village, the senior living community developed and managed by Erickson Living in Peabody, Mass., school is in session every fall and spring.

The community's Live and Learn program began in January 2013 as a way to increase the number of educational opportunities on campus.

"The purpose of the Live and Learn program is to provide lifelong learning experiences for residents from the comfort of their Brooksby home and at almost no cost [the only charge is for supplies, when applicable]," says Pamela Simpson, director of resident life. "We have many residents who were in the educational field and want to continue teaching, and we have non-teachers with experiences they wish to share. The benefit to both students and teachers is tremendous."

Diving into literature

Ned Martin has spent plenty of time in academic settings. He graduated from The College of Wooster with a degree in literature, attended seminary at the University of Chicago, and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Northwestern University.

He spent 11 years teaching English in Shaker Heights, Ohio, bookended by a career in the ministry that spanned 29 years total.

Ned, one of many community members pouring their time and talents into the program, has been a Live and Learn teacher for the past five years, 

"I've always been a teacher at heart," says Ned. "I like the lively discussions and the back and forth that takes place in a classroom setting. It's intellectually stimulating."

Ned's most recent class, Best Short Stories of the Century, was so popular he had to divide it into two groups, one meeting on Tuesday evenings and the other meeting on Wednesday evenings.

"There were 50 people signed up for the class, and I knew there would be more opportunities for participation with a smaller group," says Ned. "It was interesting to listen to the two classes analyze the same short stories. Each one presented unique understandings of the text."

Fuel for the brain

The six-week course saw class members dive into character, setting, conflict, literary devices, and point of view.

"The discussions were particularly interesting given the amount of life experience represented among the students," says Ned. "They have insight that comes from decades spent in life's classroom."

Live and Learn classes cover a breadth of topics ranging from the First Amendment to robots and artificial intelligence. Hands-on classes include making jewelry and learning to play cribbage. All classes are taught by resident volunteers with interest and knowledge of the subject matter.

Best of all, classes are taught at Brooksby, ensuring participants don't have to go far to further their education.

Going deeper

Bill Whiston was an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Harvard University. He moved to Brooksby 13 years ago and has been a Live and Learn teacher since the program's inception.

"I'll take any class Bill teaches," says community member Bob Earsy, who most recently enrolled in The Development of Economic Thought. "In his classes, you get history, economics, ethics, and literature rolled into one lesson."

As class gets underway, Bill doesn't hesitate to go deeper, introducing concepts like the welfare of the worker, preservation of capital, and the labor theory of value.

"The classes allow us to see our neighbors in a different light," says Bill. "These discussions take us to a level that wouldn't occur in the course of everyday conversation."

Those discussions often spill over into mealtime dialogue, as students delve deeper into topics they covered in class.

"I've made friends in Live and Learn classes based on shared interests we might not have otherwise discovered," says Bob. "It's a great way to stretch your mind and build relationships at the same time."