The Academy of Lifelong Learning (ALL) at Lincoln Land Community College is an organization of seniors (50 years and over) who share an interest in continuing the learning process long after the completion of our formal education. We offer a wide variety of programming and activities ranging from learning more about a timely issue to taking a group bike ride.
As we have all experienced, COVID-19 and its subsequent restrictions have resulted in drastic changes in our normal lives. It has forced us to adapt and adjust in order to continue to pursue our personal lives and the mission of our organizations. ALL has faced the restrictions with great positivity, energy, ideas and cooperation. Within a matter of weeks, we began to see Zoom as a real opportunity to continue to offer programming. Thanks to the creativity, generosity and cooperation of many in ALL leadership roles and the technical savvy of a few, we were off and running via Zoom by mid-April. Very quickly, members of the Tech Talk Committee developed a plan to individually train members to set up and use Zoom using their personal devices so that they could participate. And many of the monthly groups were quickly finding different ways to offer the same quality programs to our membership.
ALL leadership was positive and open to doing things differently. Many of our special interest groups were able to transfer their programs to a remote format. The monthly Book Lovers group only missed a few months and have met regularly either outside or remotely via Zoom. Chair Yoga classes were switched to Zoom. The program offering current topics of interest called Today’s Topic began to offer its program via Zoom. During the month of May, weekly sessions were produced as a way to offer an additional benefit as we continued to shelter in place. The weekly sessions covered such topics as preparing for a telehealth visit, recycling, a COVID-19 session from the Illinois Department of Public Health, and heart disease and COVID-19. Outdoor activities such as biking, walking and golfing were able to resume through the summer and fall. These groups do not normally meet in the winter months anyway. A few groups, such as the bowlers and those who meet at varying local restaurants, have still been unable to resume.
But we look at the successes and the positives. We are mostly up and running and discovering new ways to continue our lifelong learning focus. Special programs have been added to enhance the offerings to members as many continue to remain mostly homebound. We have had presentations from many local businesses, ranging from established places like Maldaner’s to relative newcomers like Simply CBD. We have had cooking presentations and are planning events which highlight V(ery) I(nteresting) P(eople). We have even added a Route 66 Film Festival Happy Hour. A short film is presented and discussed while members enjoy their own snacks and beverages from home and socialize.
Some of the changes, such as switching to a remote format for the many meetings required to administer and continue to develop programs, have helped us realize the value of such a format. Not unlike the world of many working people who are now successfully working remotely from home, we have discovered the ease and practicality of working this way. Although the connection made in person is irreplaceable, we will more than likely continue to administer, plan, develop and communicate remotely on a more regular basis.
All of this has made ALL continue to be alive and well and a great value for the annual membership fee. We look forward to the time when we can again have more direct social contact, but in the meantime, we will continue to pursue our mission with energy and positivity.