Senior-centered enrichment series engages aging minds, fosters friendships

by Judy Stringer

While many aging Americans may choose to kick back and relax following the hustle and bustle of career building and/or raising a family, a majority – 55%, to be exact – is actively learning new things, according to a 2022 AARP study.

And some of those lifelong learners can be found at Christ Church Episcopal in downtown Hudson on select Tuesdays.

The church is homebase to SAGE, which stands for Stimulation, Adventure, Growth and Education. Now in its 16th year, SAGE draws retired or semi-retired adults from across Summit County and adjoining communities with educational and enrichment seminars spanning a range of topics.

The program was started by former Hudson resident Iris Gold, who ran it for more than a decade before moving to Virginia Beach to live with her daughter. Today, Director Diane Ruppelt keeps the wheels turning with assistance from longtime Hudsonite Gurmukh Bhatia, who is the administrative coordinator, and Register Shyam Joshi.

Typical offerings include a popular News & Views course – an open forum discussion focused on global national, regional and local political and social issues – chair yoga and lectures on aging, history, music and literature and contemporary cultural and health care topics.

Ruppelt explained that SAGE hosts spring, fall and winter sessions – each one meeting on consecutive Tuesdays for four to seven weeks. 

“It’s a great way to spend a Tuesday, learning new things, being with congenial people,” she said. “Many of those who come here develop friendships that extend outside of SAGE.” 

Former educators or experts in their fields teach classes. Celebrated art historian Felicia Zavarella Stadelman, for example, leads a popular lecture series on the lives and works of beloved artists. Other lecturers include Steven Schecter, a presidential scholar who taught government and history classes for more than 30 years, and psychiatrist Dr. Moshe Torem. Bhatia, a retired engineer, also has led classes on chemical disasters.

Learners then self-select what classes they attend from a list of available lectures, according to Ruppelt. New learners and new lecturers are always welcome.

“New people tend to arrive at SAGE via word-of-mouth from friends,” Ruppelt said. “They come in for a day or for an hour, they really like what they see and they come back.”

A $75 fee covers a full term of learning with partial scholarships available for those who cannot afford that amount. The spring sessions start in April.

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