Arrow-right Camera

Arts & Entertainment

Column: Educated decisions make boomers lifelong learners

Mon., Sept. 2, 2013, midnight

Each fall, I pore over education catalogs that come in the mail and daydream about the day I am retired – or semi-retired – and able to be a student again.

There are so many opportunities for boomers and seniors to be lifelong learners in the Inland Northwest. And many of the classes cost very little, plus you don’t have to write papers, take exams or party like it’s 1973 – unless you want to.

If you’re interested:

• Start with the fall catalog for ACT 2, the Community Colleges of Spokane’s Institute for Extended Learning program that offers dozens of classes in locations throughout the Spokane area and in rural Spokane County – and in Whitman County, too.

Among the many opportunities? You can learn to draw people and landscapes, write your memoirs, take tai chi and yoga, learn Spanish, Korean and other languages, master Facebook, research your ancestors, plan your estate and learn about handsome houseplants.

For more information, Google “ACT 2 Institute for Extended Learning” or call (509) 279-6030.

• Check out the senior center nearest you. Senior centers in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and in outlying communities offer classes that will appeal to seniors, but also to boomers who would never use the “senior” label to describe themselves. These course offerings are always inexpensive.

• Audit classes at your alma mater. Most universities allow alums to audit courses at no cost or for a small fee. Call your alumni relations office to find out what’s available.

Also, regional universities invite to town well-known speakers and often open up their talks to the public. For instance, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will speak at the Spokane Convention Center Oct. 15 at the Whitworth University President’s Leadership Forum.

• The Elderhostel program changed its name to Road Scholar in 2010. It offers 5,500 educational tours in the United States and overseas and some are close to home. For instance, its two-week trip “Following in the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark from Missouri to Oregon” begins Sunday and is sold out.

To explore Road Scholar programs Google “Road Scholar” and then search by state for programs near you or call (800) 454-5768.

PULLED TAFFY: Donna Harvey who grew up in Spokane emailed me recently asking if I remembered the Crescent Store downtown. Of course. She then reminisced about some other favorite downtown Spokane spots from her childhood. She’s 66, so see how many of these you remember, too.

“My mom and I used to bring dad to Spokane very early in the morning. It was before the stores opened, and we would stop at the Model Coffee Shop and mom would have coffee, and I would have milk and a doughnut. I remember they had a taffy pulling machine in the window.

“I remember buying my first nail polish at Kress. I remember having lunch at Newberry’s in the basement. I loved their meatloaf. My high school friends and I shopped at Lerner’s. My cousin and I would buy candy at Ward’s. We would buy mints at Penney’s.

“There were other places that were like no others: Travo’s comes to mind. I remember getting a “Green River” at a little shop by the Paulsen Building. It was a soda of some kind. On the last day of school we would go to Nat Park. Spokane kids have lovely memories.”

Readers, when 66-year-olds of the future look back on their lives, what will they remember most about being kids in downtown Spokane in 2013?

FRESH FROM THE CENSUS: Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report titled “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012.” Some things of note: Older men were more likely to live with a spouse while older women were more likely to live alone; 36 percent of women 65 and over lived alone, compared with only 19 percent of men. Men don’t live as long as women, so wives often end up alone at the end of their lives, no surprise there.

But data gatherers noticed that the percentage of women age 65 and older who lived alone actually decreased from 40 percent to 36 percent between 2003 and 2012. The reason? The life expectancy gap between men and women is shrinking.

Conventional wisdom has said for a long time that women tend to live an average of seven years longer than men, but the census report pointed out that “between 1996 and 2008, the male-female gap in life expectancy at birth narrowed from six to five years.”


• Science on Tap presents “Recycling Used Fuel” a science lecture-discussion in a cafe setting, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., Fort Ground Grill, 705 River Ave., Coeur d’Alene, (208) 699-6240.

• Open house and fun run at Pines Cemetery, Thursday, 4 p.m., 1402 S. Pines Road, Spokane Valley, (509) 926-2753.

For more activities, go to

Click here to comment on this story »