SAGE offers lifelong learning opportunities

10 years ago

    Every fall and again every spring, central Aroostook adults aged 50-plus have the unique opportunity to enjoy informal, educational, non-competitive courses through SAGE, Seniors Achieving Greater Education. Sponsored by the University of Maine at Presque Isle since its 1998 inception, SAGE has offered 10 or more short educational courses on campus each April and October, all for $17 per term or $32 a year.
New members are always welcome and new courses are always in the pipeline. SAGE’s mission is accomplished primarily by a large cadre of active volunteers who recommend and create the curriculum, engage volunteer instructors, schedule courses, recruit participants, and handle the myriad of large and small tasks required to run the program. The goal of providing sought-after educational opportunities for those who are 50 and over is kept paramount so that courses are designed to encourage open curiosity, cultivate an attitude of inquiry, and provide meaningful leisure interaction along with creative pleasure. Just as later life is largely our own creation, so is SAGE.
Judy Burleigh, of Presque Isle, is one of the founding 19 members of the nonprofit organization. She notes that she will always be grateful to another SAGE founding member, Glenna Smith, for telling her about SAGE while it was still in its early planning stage. Burleigh says that SAGE offers “not only lifelong learning, but an introduction to things I don’t know about and more detailed information about things I may know a little about.”
Burleigh explained that SAGE allowed her to reconnect with life after the death of a loved one and said that every time she completes a SAGE class, she feels good knowing she learned something new that day and shared the experience with others. She especially appreciates the chance to discuss something everyone has read, as it is enlightening to hear different interpretations or to have her ideas affirmed. Laughing a bit, Burleigh added, “It makes me feel young, as though I am back in school again — after a long career in teaching/learning. It makes me feel alive. SAGE provides zest for living!”
Well known as “The Music Man” in Aroostook County, Dan Ladner, of Presque Isle, is also an active SAGE Board member and participant. For many years, Ladner offered a very popular course showing old movies and then leading discussions about the themes, cast and meaning. He said he has stayed involved for so long because of what he gets out of the classes.
“The courses are very interesting with lots of variety in the offerings,” Ladner said. “I also enjoy the camaraderie of working with people my own age; we bring a lifetime of different insights and opinions to the classes. It’s great fun!”
At age 88 and proudly one of the oldest participants at SAGE, Margaret Adams, of Presque Isle, attends classes because of “the joy that comes from learning something new.” Though a busy gardener in summer and a quilter/knitter in winter, Adams has a keen desire to keep her mind sharp. Meeting with other SAGE members simultaneously offers her social interaction and intellectual stimulation. She smiles at the memory of writing her memoirs during and after a course led by Ginny White, happily writing pages and pages and pages of her life story after declaring in class that she had had nothing very interesting happen in her life. In fact, as a direct result of the SAGE course, Adams created and bound a book of her family stories, giving a copy to each of her three sons.
Lifelong learning has become a bit of a cliché in recent years, but those who attend SAGE classes agree that they benefit from participation in many ways: learning new skills, sharing and discussing ideas, exploring new terrain, socializing with a variety of people from all walks of life, and developing new friendships.
Newer SAGE member Pam Crawford, of Presque Isle, who participates as a student and a teacher, is particularly interested in creative aging and appreciates the fact that SAGE courses are enhanced by good humor, a safe and relaxed environment for experimenting with new ideas and new techniques, and short-term but disciplined risk-taking.  “It’s the perfect place to broaden your thinking and overcome the limitations of habit.”
Crawford notes that she especially enjoys teaching SAGE courses because “members have long lifetimes of marvelous and varied world experiences to share and are at a stage in life where they are willing to try anything at least once!”
SAGE courses typically run for four weeks, once a week, for a couple hours. Some courses are lecture-based while others are hands-on and experiential. Classes are peer-taught, peer-led. There are also scheduled field excursions each term, with transportation and often meals included in the price of the trip.
Nancy Roe, the current chair of SAGE’S Board of Directors, has been a SAGE participant for most of its 19 years. About her involvement with SAGE, she said, “I was born with a curiosity gene. My family kept a dictionary in the dining room which was used to settle dinner table arguments. I love taking classes. While employed at UMPI, I took advantage of free tuition to take geology with Bill Forbes, history of the English language with George Bowman and French with Guy Gallagher. Membership in SAGE was a natural progression, with wonderful classes to spark the imagination and keep the older brain and body exercised: ballroom dancing, classic short stories, Civil War female spies. My recommendation is to join SAGE. Enjoy learning, and, as an added bonus, make new friends along the way.”
To participate in courses and/or field excursions, join SAGE by completing a course brochure form (available at UMPI Conferences and Special Programs or online at at the start of a new term in March and September) or by attending the Kick-Off prior to the start of the term. For more information about SAGE, call Nancy Roe at 768-7271.