Many people think of Seabrook as a college campus, but they're typically referring to the lifestyle of having everything one needs conveniently within reach, just steps from their front door. But Seabrook, the Erickson Living-managed community in Tinton Falls, N.J., is even more like a college campus than one might think.
Community member Leonardo Cruoglio has been teaching college-level academic courses in languages, philosophy, history, literature, music, and theology since he and his wife Madeline moved to Seabrook from Manahawkin in 2010.
The popular classes always fill up, reaching a capacity of 42 with a waiting list. Leonardo chooses one topic to teach each month from April through November. For example, he might teach a philosophy class on Aristotle in April followed by a theology class on Martin Luther in May.
The groups meet weekly in one of Seabrook's classrooms, one of many community amenities, and attracts both new and familiar faces.
"Seabrook provides me with a place to do this. I'm enriched and grateful that they appreciate what I do and that I have the technology in the room," he says. Leonardo singles out staff members Travis Tanay and Natalie Battifora for their partnership. "I love the fact that I have this wonderful receptiveness from Seabrook. It's a great advantage," he adds.
Stretch your mind
One might ask how one man can teach so many subjects.
"I teach six programs because those are the programs I studied throughout my life," he says. He has master's degrees in languages, philosophy, theology, literature, history, and music. For years, he taught at high schools and colleges throughout New Jersey, then he moved on to adult education.
However, he says, the classes at Seabrook go beyond typical adult education. "This is what's called 'andragogy'—learning beyond learning—keeping people engaged between 70 and 100 years old. The residents here are enthusiastic, eager to learn, receptive to challenges, and attentive," he says.
To Leonardo, teaching this age group provides him not only with an opportunity to continue teaching the things he loves but also a whole new level of learning and a unique way to meet neighbors.
"It's a wonderful experience. What I see in myself, I see in them—the same eagerness, enthusiasm, reception to challenges. I call it 'stretching your mind.'"
Freedom to explore
Leonardo spends the majority of his time planning and preparing for classes. "The research is monumental and ongoing. I'm always engaged in doing what's happening next week," he says.
As such, he adds that the maintenance-free lifestyle at Seabrook enables him to pursue this passion. "The freedom I have here is incredible," he says. "All day is my own schedule to make. I don't have to worry about going out for a meal or shopping for a meal."
He doesn't have to worry about home maintenance or lawn care either. That's all included in his monthly service package, which covers most day-to-day expenses, including apartment home maintenance, property taxes, heating and air-conditioning, trash and recycling collection at his door, dining plans and options, basic cable TV, regularly scheduled transportation, 24-hour security and emergency response services, plus access to a wealth of campus amenities.
That maintenance-free lifestyle also affords him time to visit with his family in Connecticut and travel to Florida every winter, where he conducts research on the next season's courses.
Leonardo says he hopes his enthusiasm for the subjects he teaches translates to his pupils and peers.
"At every class I ended for the last ten years, I have said, 'Thank you for enriching my life.' And I truly mean it. I'm not saying it to be self-congratulatory. Really, I mean it. I thank them for enriching my life. They have kept my enthusiasm for learning alive and kept me engaged."