FSU receives $14,000 grant for the Adventures in Lifelong Learning Program

Framingham State University received a $14,000 grant from BayPath Elder Services in October to aid the Adventures in Lifelong Learning Program.

The Lifelong Learning Program, created in 2011, is a collaborative project between FSU and the City of Framingham Public Library providing continuing education for elders. 

BayPath Elder Services is a non-profit organization that provides resources to elders who live in the MetroWest area. 

Anne Roberti, assistant director of English Language Programs and Community Education, said the grant money provides funds for a part-time outreach coordinator for the program. 

Roberti added the grant provides additional funding so the program can place ads in order to conduct targeted outreach to isolated elders and to those who are underrepresented in the community. 

She said, “We received an initial grant from BayPath that started in October 2019.”

The initial grant ran from October 2019 through September 2020, according to Roberti.

She said the grant money for 2020-21 was an increase from the initial grant, which is the full amount the program applied for.

In the fall of 2019, the program started searching for an outreach coordinator, and in January 2020, the program hired Maureen DeJong, according to Roberti. 

Dejong’s goals as outreach coordinator are to reach people in underrepresented populations and seniors who are isolated. Reaching isolated seniors is especially important now, she said. 

Dejong added, “My job is a perfect match for me. I was a continuing education student at Framingham State and enjoyed my time there. I have a lot of respect for what FSU does to foster community development, and that includes the Adventures in Lifelong Learning Program.” 

Roberti said the program allows seniors to intellectually engage as it provides programming in all areas including business, arts, and sciences. Adventures in Lifelong Learning also provides social stimulation for elders, she said.

Dejong added participation in the program is free, which is especially helpful during the pandemic.

Fran Bakstran, area agency on aging assistant director at BayPath Elder Services, agreed the Lifelong Learning Program has been crucial to elders.

She said the Lifelong Learning Program is known by many, and people are aware it’s a great way to stay physically and mentally sharp as they age. 

“Just as the title says, the program is about lifelong learning, and if you’re not learning you stall in life,” Bakstran added. “I am a firm believer that you should learn something new every day. It keeps the seniors’ minds sharp. The best way to prevent dementia is to use the mind, not lose it. So, Adventures in Lifelong Learning is enriching, especially in these times with isolation.”

According to Dejong, COVID-19 has altered the program.  

Dejong said the program quickly switched to a virtual setting. 

“As people have not been able to meet in person anymore, it has been great to allow people to still access our programs,” she added. “We are fortunate to keep the program going. The participation has been wonderful.”

Roberti said they usually offer the program at the public library, Framingham City Hall, Danforth Art Museum, or other locations depending on what is being offered. This year, they had over 170 registrants for the program held over Zoom, she said.

Roberti added, “Technology might not have been something all the participants had been using prior to COVID, but now they are adept at using Zoom. They are connecting with each other.”  

Yaser Najjar, dean of graduate studies, agreed COVID-19 has changed the program. 

He said it was a challenge for the faculty to discuss the course structure as well as the students because most of them need to learn about technology. 

Najjar is thankful for BayPath Elder Services as the program has been helpful during COVID-19.  

He said, “I was happy because especially now with COVID, we needed an opportunity to get resources from anywhere outside of Framingham State – especially with those institutions who devoted support to the elderly population.”