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Adult Education / Seniors: Second Wind

These classes for seniors draw on a unique store of knowledge: the students.

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Anyone who has ever suspected that youth and its attendant perks -- such as college -- are wasted on the young need look no farther than the city's numerous education programs for older students. Much older students. Men and women who would rather spend their retirement years having their minds stimulated than nap by the shuffleboard court. And when these seniors enter a classroom, they are everything their youthful counterparts often aren't: i.e., motivated and eager to learn.

Nowhere are these qualities better displayed than at Quest, the "peer learning" program at CUNY's TriBeCa Center for Worker Education (925-6625, extension 229). Quest has no administration and no faculty; tuition is $450, and the 140 student-professors (ages 55 to 95) set the course schedule, run all the classes, and staff the admissions committee. Among the fall semester's 40-odd offerings are "Brain, Mind and Self," "Foreign Policy," "The Future of Capitalism," "Twentieth-Century Japanese Literature," and conversational French. "You don't hear any grandchildren-talk," says Quest's Gina Liebow. "And you don't hear any sick-talk. We haven't got time for it." The one drawback, a ninetysomething student notes wryly: "We have a lot of attrition."

The New School's Institute for Retired Professionals(229-5682) invented peer learning for seniors back in 1962. (Quest was spun off from the IRP in 1995.) It offers courses in writing, local history, and languages -- plus a new subprogram ("Visions") for visually impaired seniors.

For those who prefer not to run the show themselves, there are other options: Marymount Manhattan College's Center for Learning and Living (517-0564) offers classes in Egyptology, yoga, and American history. NYU (790-1352), Hofstra (516-463-5993), and Hunter (772-4490) also offer programs geared to older students.


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