There’s an organization in Haverhill that, despite catering to the elderly, never manages to grow old.
If anything, it effervesces with vim and vitality.
Anyone who’s ever attended a Life Long Learning program at Northern Essex Community College can vouch for its spirit and enthusiasm. One day you’re on a rollicking tour of Greece. Another day, you’re harmonizing with music or exploring the world of Norman Rockwell.
Putting it bluntly, LLL provides opportunities to experience cultural, intellectual and educational growth in a relaxed, friendly environment. It’s a place to meet new people, hear stimulating weekly lectures and programs, go on fascinating trips or take in-depth courses of study.
It’s been rolling along for 28 years, catering to approximately 3,000 senior citizens annually.
Not long ago, I had the privilege of being a presenter upon the invitation of 10-year coordinator Charlene Boucher. Matter of fact, I’ve made a few presentations over the years, whether it was the subject of Armenia or something to do with my years in journalism.
The latest gig coincided with 40 years of photo journalism, displaying some of my favorite black and white prints over that time with a related story. The privilege of sharing my profession with others has always brought me a wealth of pleasure and fulfillment.
Boucher takes great measures in bringing the very best programs to the forefront. What talent there is in our community will ultimately be tapped for an LLL session.
“When I see happiness, I feel good all over,” says Boucher. “Because some of them are widowed, nobody is lonely here. If I had a wish list, it’s to get even more people involved.”
This summer found a beehive of activity inside the college’s Technology Center, where meetings take place. A swing-along with Julie Zielski brought back the oldies but goodies. Dave Camponigro’s accordion got a workout with waltzes and polkas.
An afternoon of fun with Janice Clevesy and Toni Ronsivalli had people rollicking in their seats. If you were having a bad morning, this was an instant remedy.
A July 4th celebration drew about 250 folks celebrating our nation’s heritage with a cookout and music. There was also a guitar and fiddle concert, an entertaining historical talk on the Colonials and British, ending with a summer lobster and chicken bake.
As with any LLL venue, there are discussion groups, current events, computer classes, genealogy, poetry sessions, and a whole litany of trips to places like Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, N.H.; Mohegan Sun in Connecticut; and an overnight to the Finger Lakes in New York.
Sure to please is a trip to Newport, R.I., Sept. 12, for The Edwards Twins, coupled with a scrumptious buffet. The twins are known for their impersonations of more than 100 stars, from Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond to Cher. Details are available by calling (978) 556-3825.
Should that escape you, try the Bread & Chocolate Tour Oct. 3 to Maine with lunch at Dunstan’s Schoolhouse.
Well worth mentioning is the generous assistance received through the Griffin-White Foundation, Greater Haverhill Breakfast Exchange—Don Nolet Memorial Speaker Series and Wingate at Haverhill.
In a community that boasts a large elderly population, Haverhill sure has a lot to offer its golden-agers. Whether it’s LLL or the Council on Aging, Bethany Homes or other related groups, there’s no reason to be bored.
What troubles me is this. If there are 23,000 elderly in Haverhill and the Council on Aging only has tabs on maybe half that number, what’s happening to the rest? Where do they go? What do they do?
Sad to say, many are isolated, forlorn, some even neglected. They have little or no purpose in life, nothing to occupy their time or interest. Transportation may be a problem, but I would find it hard to believe that someone cannot offer a ride, be it a neighbor, relative or agency.
The services we have at our disposal are abundant and diversified. They are designed to cater our every whim. Retirement should be a consolation, not a curse. Visit the library. Drop by the Citizens Center. Join a senior bowling league. Give LLL a shot.
You can always find some solace in volunteering and helping those less fortunate. People tell me the trouble with old age is there’s not much future in it — or that we’re too advanced to enjoy it.
I beg to differ. The only shortfall is watching your children become middle-aged or growing less tolerant of rambunctious grandchildren invading your home. Even that carries its pleasure, trust me.
Life Long Learning is just what the idiom suggests — that age is no deterrent for broadening our minds and adding a new dimension to our lives. Join the entourage. You won’t regret it.
Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.