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Seniors Learn About Buddhist Psychology, Civil War and More in Farmington Hills

The Adult Learning Institute offers classes and camaraderie for those ages 55 and over at Oakland Community College’s Orchard Ridge Campus.

After Edna Rubin of Oak Park had retired from her career as a teacher, and after her grandchildren were in school full-time, she decided it was time to change focus.

“I thought to myself, ‘This is a different lifestyle, and now it’s time for me,’” Rubin said.

Last fall, Rubin enrolled in the Adult Learning Institute (ALI) at Oakland Community College's Orchard Ridge campus in Farmington Hills. ALI brings together more than 150 retired and semi-retired people, ages 55 and above, for courses on a variety of topics. 

Carl Muma of Bingham Farms joined the group five years ago and is currently the president of ALI’s executive committee.

“The goal of the program is to keep the maturing population alert and learning,” said Muma. “These people ask great questions of our speakers because they all come from different professional backgrounds, and it keeps the brain functioning.”

ALI members pay a flat fee for each session, which lasts seven weeks each fall and spring. They may then attend as many classes as they like of the 42 offered in areas of health, politics, science, art, history, literature and more. Every Wednesday afternoon, a music program features a variety of local musicians.

ALI uses space at the community college free of charge.

“We’re excited about the relationship we have with OCC,” Muma said. “They’ve decided to embrace us and our programs fully.”

This fall, ALI members have heard presentations by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly, Wayne State University journalism professor and political analyst Jack Lessenberry, and art historian Dr. Deborah Kawsky.  Subject matter varies greatly; this term’s classes cover topics such as Buddhist psychology, Detroit jazz, human trafficking, the Civil War, senior safety issues, and the history of Pewabic Pottery.

 “We try to find contemporary speakers that are still active in the working community, that are still doing research,” said Carol Penrose, Curriculum Committee co-chair.  “For our spring term, we have a physicist from U of M who will talk to us about the Higgs particle, so we try to choose topics that really give people an opportunity to exercise the brain.”

West Bloomfield resident Vera Kalnins is the only remaining charter member; she has been with ALI since its inception in 1991.

“This organization has been run entirely by volunteers since the beginning,” said Kalnins.  “We get to know each other – there are friendships between people who would have never found each other if not for ALI.  When we get together after a break, it’s like having a reunion with relatives.”

Since the group doesn’t have funds to pay its speakers, ALI instead makes a donation to the speaker’s favorite charity to recognize them.

“This is a great place to be for seven weeks,” said Del McPherson of Farmington Hills.  “I want to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world and this is just a wonderful way to do it.”

For Rubin, one of the newest members, being part of ALI in her new phase of life has proved to be a good decision.

“I leave here excited,” she said. “I want to tell people what I learned about that day. There is so much more to know, and I want to have more to talk about with people than what I ate for dinner last night.”

For more information about ALI, visit the website at www.ali-occ.org.

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