86 and going to college

Posted on 02/25/20 by Dick Weinman

Powering my way through octogenarianism, I eschew mere sitting on my tuchus as the decade tick away. But suddenly I have an AH HAH! Moment: Why no go back to school – post-secondary, of course – at the neighboring university?

Now I have a student ID card, and I am numbered among the thirty-thousand-some student body. Already possessing a couple of advanced degrees, I don’t need a B.A., so I am an Auditor, and may sit and listen in classes. I sometimes enrich the class with the wisdom that age provides - at eighty-six, I have experienced the events the young-uns are learning about.

And, as a former professor, I’m interested in how the class is taught.

The teacher is excellent, not only does she inform the class, but she engages the students with questions and discussion of the issues, stimulates students’ critical thinking skills, and gives students opportunities to speak in public.

And the teacher and the students show me – an old, disabled man – their kindness. Since these days can be cold and wet, young classmates assist me to put my coat on and off; we struggle together to manipulate my coat over my unmoving arm and hand, and accommodate my inability to stand.

One student meets me at the entrance of the building and pushes my wheelchair through the labyrinth of ramps and hallways to the classroom where I take my seat – oops! Wheelchair bound, I’m perennially in my seat. She pushes my seat to a place in the aisle and sits next to me.

After two hours have passed, the students get restless – it’s about noon and the period is just about over- and start gathering books and papers. I push myself to a semi-standing position before the deluge of bodies pounce the door. All the while my helper squishes and squirms my coat on.

The professor, too, gathers her books and papers; then she pushes me around the labyrinth of corners and crevices to the main floor exit door where I wait for my ride to the ALF where I will stay in my seat and waddle to my place at the dining table ready to digest my lunch and learning.

So. . . what did my eighty-six, disabled undergraduate self learn?

Education is enthralling. Millennials are smarter than octogenarians (and sextas, septas, and nanos) smugly think – and people are kind.

Dick Weinmann is an AARP volunteer and our Assisted Living (ALF) guru.

This story is provided by AARP Oregon. Visit the AARP Oregon page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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