Back to School – for Senior Adults, too
A group of adults 65-years and older return to the school benches in Efrat’s Derech Avot High School, where they interact with younger students and enrich their lives.
Amongst the more than 3,500 students who began the new academic year in OTS high schools this week, there was a special class of 30-odd students who, as opposed to their schoolmates, are starting this new school year in the seventh or eighth decade of their lives.
The group is comprised of 65-80 year old retirees who study once a week at Ohr Torah Stone’s Derech Avot high school in Efrat, within the framework of “kitat vatikim – the veterans’ class.”
The class began five years ago, part of a general initiative spearheaded by the office for Senior Citizens and its Minister, the late Uri Orbach, encouraging senior adults to leave their homes to partake in cultural activities and inviting them into participating schools for enrichment studies. Since then, they have made their way to Derech Avot once a week for a packed day of learning on a variety of subjects ranging from History to Art; Arabic to Biology, Talmud to Philosophy. More importantly, the group participates in the annual activity cycle and ceremonies of the high school, with the inter-generational interaction benefiting both populations.
“I was already getting text messages and phone calls a few weeks before school started,” relates Avichai Foa, the OTS coordinator of the program. “They wrote things like ‘This is our fifth year and I’m as excited as a fifth grader!’; ‘I can’t wait to get back into the classroom’; and ‘I’ve missed you, when will it finally be September First?'” he says. “The project adds so much to the participants’ lives, not only does it open up an entire new world of curricula for them in a warm and fun environment, but as the students always tell me, the connections that they establish with the high school boys really help to keep them young at heart.”