Westminster/Wesleyan Partnership Encourages Lifelong Learning

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Engagement opportunity created by two leading organizations is a key element to successful aging

Featured News | September 27, 2017

Two leading organizations have come together to create an engagement opportunity that is a key element to successful aging: the Westminster/Wesleyan Lifelong Learning Institute. A signing ceremony was held Sept. 26 to formally mark the new partnership, which brings courses taught by Virginia Wesleyan University faculty to the campus of Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay.

“This partnership is a natural fit and truly a win-win,” says Virginia Wesleyan University President Scott D. Miller. “It allows Westminster-Canterbury members to stay challenged and energized as they continue their path of education and growth, and it gives Virginia Wesleyan opportunities to share the talents and leadership of our faculty.”

Programming for the initiative is coordinated by Dr. Ben Fraser, the newly appointed Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning. Several courses will be taught each semester, and roughly half will be on faith-related topics. Courses are offered at no cost to Westminster-Canterbury members, who will also receive free admission to many athletic and cultural events on the Virginia Wesleyan campus.

“Exercising not only our bodies but our minds as we age is so important,” says Ben Unkle, President and CEO of Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay. “Doing things that are unfamiliar and mentally challenging keeps our minds sharp. Study after study says staying engaged is the key to successful aging.”  

This isn’t the first time the two organizations have worked together. There are many shared friends who are actively involved with both Virginia Wesleyan and the Westminster-Canterbury community. The Birdsong Initiative, for example, was funded by Westminster-Canterbury Foundation Board Member Sue Birdsong and her husband, VWU Trustee Emeritus George Birdsong, both longtime Virginia Wesleyan supporters.

The 2015 study examined whether the use of computer technology could increase socialization and improve mental health among residents of nursing homes and memory support programs. Researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School led the 24-week study with support from students in Virginia Wesleyan's Recreational Therapy program. VWU students played a critical role in assessing residents, providing treatment intervention and collecting data. Participation in the study was part of Dr. Wayne Pollock's course, "Recreational Therapy Analysis and Assessment."

Courses for the Westminster/Wesleyan Lifelong Learning Institute began on Sept. 25, which also happened to be the start of Active Aging Week, an international campaign encouraging adults over 50 to live fully in all areas of life—physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, vocational and environmental.

Virginia Wesleyan faculty who are teaching this fall as part of the Lifelong Learning Institute include: Dr. Kathleen Casey, Assistant Professor of History; Dr. Leslie Caughell, Assistant Professor of Political Science; Dr. Ben Fraser, Westminster-Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning; Dr. Terry Lindvall, C.S. Lewis Endowed Chair in Communication and Christian Thought and Professor of Communication; Dr. Taryn Myers, Batten Associate Professor of Psychology; Dr. Timothy O’Rourke, Provost and Vice President and Professor of Political Science; Dr. Vic Townsend, Professor of Biology; and Dr. Craig Wansink, Joan P. and Macon F. Brock, Jr. Director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom and Professor of Religious Studies.

The Westminster/Wesleyan Lifelong Learning Institute is administered and supported through the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan University.