Texas Seniors Prove There’s No Age Limit to Learning – KENS5.com | Team Cansler

The university said about two dozen older students enroll in its classes each year.

SAN MARCOS, Texas – At Texas State University in San Marcos, you might be surprised at the maturity of some of the students.

Ian Whitehead brings additional wisdom to his anthropology class. At 78, he is closer in age to his professor than his classmates.

Professor Angela VandenBroek thinks it’s a plus.

“We study the human experience, so it’s a lot more fun to have discussions when everyone has these different voices in the classroom, when everyone brings something new. Ian obviously has a wealth of experience to share,” said VandenBroek. “I think it’s fantastic. There’s no time that says it’s too late to learn things. If you are interested and want to learn, college is a great place.”

Whitehead is what you would call a lifelong learner.

“At this college? I’ve been here for six years,” Whitehead said. “Before that, I was a student at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, where my wife was a professor.”

Whitehead said his wife’s position gave him the opportunity to continue his education. At first he took classes just for fun, to explore his interests.

Before he knew it, the course was almost complete.

“Now I’m just one subject away from graduation,” Whitehead said.

He started his career in the oil and gas industry before moving into construction. He later opened his own construction company. When he’s not concentrating on the scientific study of humanity, he’s building houses.

“It’s a nice balance,” Whitehead said. “I love it!”

A government program allows Whitehead to expand his knowledge for free. Jayme Blaschke, senior media relations manager at TSU, said about two dozen senior students enroll in their classes each year.

“It essentially allows adults over the age of 65 to attend classes for up to six hours,” Blaschke said. “That corresponds to about two lectures per semester without tuition fees.”

He calls the program a win-win for the university and the surrounding communities.

“I’ve seen classes where you have non-traditional students with traditional students and you can almost get mentorship. A lot of the older students will have some degree of college experience and a lot more life experience,” Blaschke said. “You see interesting, dynamic relationships developing between the younger students and the older students, especially when study groups and the like are involved.”

Evolving interests, newfound passions

Jim Chestnut, a distance student at TSU, said online access made learning easier for him.

“I discovered the benefits of the state of Texas as a student. I came back to school after doing other careers. I graduated with a BAAS degree, Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences, at the age of 65,” said Chestnut.

Chestnut’s professional life ranges from television broadcaster to musician. He said this program at TSU allows him to pursue his curiosity.

“My first master’s is in interdisciplinary studies,” Chestnut said. “Now I’m working on a degree in health education and promotion, a second master’s.”

Chestnut said he will be minoring in dementia and aging studies. He hopes to become a certified health education professional, but has no plans to use his qualifications professionally.

He said this knowledge was only for his benefit.

“My wife asked me similar questions,” Chestnut said. “She said, ‘Why are you doing this?’ And I said: ‘Two reasons: because I can and want to have a good death.’ I want to go out and look ahead instead of looking back. If you can maintain childlike curiosity, a sense of purpose in life can keep the brain alive and functioning.”

Chestnut and Whitehead learned much through this program, including the secret of a long life well lived.

“Staying active, both physically and mentally,” Whitehead said. “Right now I have a happy balance sheet and I am very grateful for that. Very grateful.”

While many eager students can’t wait to move on to the next leg of their journey, they may be able to learn a thing or two from their classmates who jumped at the opportunity to take a second spin.

If you are 65 or older and would like to learn more about the Texas State University program, click here.

The nationwide program is only offered at public universities that choose to do so, meaning it is not available at private colleges such as Trinity University or the University of the Incarnate Word. The PR team at the University of Texas at San Antonio told KENS 5 that they are also not currently participating in this program.

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