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Myra Demeter

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Osher Institute: How One School Offered My Spouse A Fresh Start

Posted: 04/30/2012 8:41 am

Before Dan's first day of school, we checked the bus schedule a million times. He chose his clothes the night before and prepared the items in his new messenger bag. As we walked to the bus stop we double-checked that he had all his equipment and reviewed the schedule for the day. He was ready, but it was also obvious that he was nervous. As he boarded the bus and I stood on the side and watched the bus pull away from the bus stop, I got a knowing nod and reassuring smile from the bus driver. Was the twinge in my stomach so obvious?

I watched the bus join the traffic and recede into the distance. It was the first time I had not accompanied him some place and he was on his own. I returned home and stayed close by to be available in case the call to pick him up early from school came. The phone didn't ring.

At 3:30 p.m. I walked to the bus stop to greet him on his return. I saw a lot of people exit the bus but he wasn't one of them. Somehow I had missed him and he had walked home alone.

He was enthusiastic about his day but did admit that it was difficult to sit through the two-hour classes. He was fascinated by the topics his teachers discussed and enjoyed the day. He also remarked that he was probably the youngest student in his class, but said that didn't bother him and he felt very comfortable. Dan was very proud of his accomplishments -- taking the bus alone, walking from the bus to the school, crossing the street, finding his classroom, buying his lunch, and returning home. It was all a big deal -- a very big deal.

Dan is a stroke survivor and my husband of 36 years. He suffered an ischemic stroke at age 59, while at work as a senior executive at a worldwide firm. There was no family history, no high blood pressure and he wasn't overweight. He had competed in a 100-mile bike race the weekend before. They were never able to determine why it happened, and we learned that the causes of a large percentage of strokes are never known.

Dan was gravely ill in August 2010 as the stroke traveled through the brain stem, the area that controls all basic bodily functions -- breathing, heartbeat, etc. It made its way through his brain, destroying brain cells along the way, and affecting many areas. The exact pathway of the clot could be plotted because the MRI of his brain exposed the areas of dead brain cells. The clot also paralyzed the optic nerve so his left eye was affected and wouldn't open.

Dan spent two months in the hospital and has worked diligently since that time to relearn to walk and to talk. His left eye opened four months after the stroke but he is left with double vision. His expressive aphasia affects his memory and he has undergone intensive rehabilitation to help with that issue. He is still working on that through exercises on the computer. When he was discharged from speech therapy last month, they instructed him to "find a class" with the goal of becoming more independent and experiencing more interaction with others. Dan researched and discovered the Osher Life-Long Learning Institute.

Located at more than 150 institutions of higher education around the United States, the Osher program is continuing education designed for "seasoned" individuals over the age of 50. It is not a program for the disabled; rather it is for anyone who wishes to learn. The courses cover a wide variety of topics, from language study to Einstein and his Theories, to Art and much more. Very reasonably priced, the classes vary from one-day seminars to seven- to eight-week courses, and there is something for everyone. The instructors are extremely knowledgeable and everyone is there to learn. There is no homework, and start dates for classes are staggered so they are offered continually.

When we began to tell people about the program we learned that our friends around the U.S. were already taking courses in the program -- in San Diego, in Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. We discovered it because of Dan's stroke. Now we want to let everyone know about this wonderful program for all post 50s who love to learn!

 
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