Barbara Johnston said she is "delighted" with the way the Society for Lifelong Learning at Western Kentucky University has evolved.

"The teachers who have stepped up to teach the classes have loved it," said Johnston, who is chairwoman of the curriculum committee. "I think they love it as much as the participants."

The classes, which are for people 50 and older, will kick off this week, and members can start classes anytime in the term. Membership is $125 for a single term, which is usually eight weeks, or $200 for an annual membership in which people can take as many classes as they'd like. Most classes are at Knicely Conference Center, but there are some that meet at other locations. For a complete schedule, visit

"You don't have to be a college graduate to be a part of it. All you have to have is an interest in learning. If someone wants to check us out, they can attend a class and see how it feels," program manager Cindy Ehresman said.

There are also $10 "Food for Thought" events that include a light meal and a lecture. The events aren't members-only, but people do have to register and pay in advance. To register, call 270-745-1912 or visit

The Lifelong Learning classes meet Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"There are so many people in the age group who are not retired. We push to have classes later in the afternoon," Ehresman said. "We have a lot of early evening classes. It's a response to what the membership wants."

There are 120 people registered for classes in this term – the third one, Ehresman said.

The society is meant to support itself. WKU serves as a support mechanism, Ehresman said.

"Everybody pitches in. Western helps with staffing and a place to meet," she said. "It's not Western running it. It's the members running it."

A couple of the most popular classes have been learning to draw and history classes, Ehresman said. A travel opportunity to New York, which will cost extra, will be in the summer.

Some people who teach classes are retired professors, people who still work or people who don't have advanced degrees and want to share with the group. Ed Tivol is one of the teachers who is chairman of the advisory board.

"I've been involved since its inception. It has just been an interesting and wonderful experience to see an organization be started from scratch and create 23 classes," he said. "It's great to see this take off."

He taught a class last term about the first 3,000 years of Christianity. He will teach a class this term on cybersecurity.

"It's something we have to deal with no matter if we're in the home or office," Tivol said.

Johnston's job is to find someone who is willing to teach a class in whatever the group has expressed an interest. For example, she approached Lost River Cave staff about hosting a geocaching class in the spring. The topic has always intrigued her.

Johnston's not the only one who enjoys taking the classes.

"My 92-year-old mother is a member and she loves it. A week after a class session the topic will come up," she said. "We talk about what the class was like from her perspective. The program has what you could say is a broad appeal."

— Follow features reporter Alyssa Harvey on Twitter at or visit