Keith Derrickson taught music in the Baltimore County Public School system for 30 years. Now, he's at the head of the class again at Oak Crest, the Erickson Senior Living community in Parkville, Md.
Keith is one of dozens of residents at Oak Crest who enjoy participating in monthly educational workshops as part of Resident University, a program created by and for community members.
"I like to describe it as a non-accredited, nonaffiliated college experience, specifically designed for residents of Oak Crest," says Keith, who serves as dean of Resident University. "Our motto is 'lifelong learning.' We believe that just because you are retired doesn't mean you stop learning."
Workshops are held on the first Saturday of each month, with a tuition of just $10 per course. The year is divided into fall and spring semesters and students earn credits toward an honorary college degree, complete with a diploma.
"We already have a graduation ceremony scheduled for 2024," says Keith. "Graduates will wear caps and gowns, and we'll even have a keynote speaker."
Now, in its second year, Resident University is flourishing. The instructors, many of whom are retired teachers, run the gamut--world travelers, people with specialized knowledge or experiences, or just those who have an interesting hobby or pastime.
"We were hoping to get 40 people registered for the first semester," says Mary Lou Merida, assistant dean of Resident University. "Twice as many people showed up!"
A former English teacher, Mary Lou has already presented a workshop on the Cat in the Hat and Dr. Seuss. She is looking forward to presenting her next course, which will cover personality typology--the concept of distinguishing people by their behavioral traits and viewing them as defined types, such as introversion and extraversion.
"It's been neat to watch the whole thing take off," says Mary Lou. "After someone presents, you learn something new that you otherwise may not have known. That's my favorite thing, watching the community get to know each other in a different way."
'Everyone has a story'
Gloria Byrd is the registrar for Resident University. "We have had some marvelous talks," she says. "Everyone here has a story, whether it's what they did for a living, places they traveled, or hobbies they have. They are all different and interesting."
Resident University's offerings have included diverse topics such as Movement and Music, Southern Presidents, Fire and Medical Emergencies, Rome Underground, Adventures in Ethiopia, and Cryptology 101.
Former social studies and journalism teacher William "Bill" Metzger presented a lecture on George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River.
"Most people have seen the famous painting by Emanuel Leutze of Washington crossing the Delaware, but many people are surprised to learn that the painting is inaccurate," says Bill, who moved to Oak Crest in 2012 with his wife Gen.
He continues, "There are two presidents pictured in the boat. One is Washington and the other is President Monroe. However, President James Monroe was enlisted in Virginia's state militia--not with Washington and the command forces in that boat."
Studies show that learning something new challenges the brain in different ways, stimulating connections that help you stay sharp.
Learning new skills
A study recently published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences tested the hypothesis of whether older adults could continue to grow cognitively by learning multiple new skills in an encouraging environment.
After learning Spanish, how to use an iPad, photography, drawing and painting, and music composition, the participants increased their cognitive abilities--to levels similar to those 30 years younger--after just six weeks.
Recognizing the importance of these findings, Erickson Senior Living and its communities support programs that benefit residents' mental health and overall well-being. At Oak Crest, Resident University is just one of many educational programs!
Leaving a legacy
For Keith, the opportunity to be part of Resident University is more than just putting a few fun workshops together. It is about being part of a community that celebrates life.
"The older we get, the more we think about our legacy and what we are going to leave our children, grandchildren, and the community," says Keith. "I want to do that, leave a legacy."
To learn more about senior living at Oak Crest, request your free brochure to get the scoop on amenities, floor plans, and so much more.