Learning is not something that ends after graduation.
On Fridays, Keene community members 55 and older come together to take classes at the college through a program called the Cheshire Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL). CALL was created over 25 years ago, according to program coordinator Heather Jasmin. It was founded as a way to offer courses to older citizens in the Monadnock region at a reasonable cost. The program helps seniors with a passion for learning stay involved in the community as they get older.
“[The program] is important for the individuals themselves because it’s important for them to stay active, healthy and engaged. It can help prevent dementia and keep them healthy going into older age,” Jasmin said.
The program is made up of two eight-week terms in the fall and spring and one four-week term in the winter. Each eight-week term is made up of more than 300 members taking classes on Fridays.
“They go to the Dining Commons, they eat and meet in the Student Center; we try, whenever possible, to get intergenerational collaboration,” Jasmin said.
Some of the collaborations that have occurred are fitness testing, dance recitals, sociological interviews, political conversations, museum field trips, oral history projects and author visits. One of the new programs CALL has undertaken this year was the “Lunch and Learn” program. From 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Fridays, individuals were able to showcase a college initiative or student work.
“Our members love getting that opportunity to connect with students and hear what’s going on with students,” Jasmin said.
One of the unique features of CALL is the classes themselves are often taught by local senior citizens. Margaret Kasschau moved to Keene from the Philadelphia area a little over 10 years ago to be closer to her son. She was a professor of biology at the University of the Sciences before the move.
“My significant other did a much better job of getting integrated into the community. He started doing several things. He was meeting local people while I was still one foot in Philadelphia,” Kasschau said.
However, it was through her partner getting involved in the community that Kasschau discovered CALL. Kasschau said that both she and her partner had been educators before they retired. When a new friend told the couple about the CALL program, Kasschau said they decided to sign up.
“We literally came home and looked it up on the web and joined up. It was one of those immediate things,” Kassachau said.
After taking some classes, Kasschau decided she wanted to return to her love of teaching biology. She approached Jasmin about the teaching opportunity. Kassachau now teaches and takes classes through the program during the fall and spring sessions.
As people get older, some consider their age as an obstacle for not being able to accomplish tasks. Fellow CALL member Linda Piekarski said it’s important to try and avoid that mindset at all costs.
“I don’t consider my age a limitation. It’s a circumstance and a damn nuance, but you can’t think of your age as a limitation. If you like gardening, join the gardening club. Just do it and get out there,” Piekasrski said.
Erin McNemar can be contacted at