Institute for Retired Persons helps older Americans continue to learn

March 18, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — There are no assignments or grades.

But for two semesters every year, senior citizens go back to school.

It's the Institute for Retired Persons (IRP), a program dedicated to lifelong learning.

Some weeks, participants might discuss American history. Other times, they're on field trips, exploring museums or heading to the theater.

And the only requirement, said Pat Chickering, interim director, is a natural curiosity.

IRP was founded in 1983 by several Chambersburg residents who were looking for ways to stayed involved and informed.

Originally, courses were taught by local experts on a limited number of topics.

Today, Chickering said, speakers come from across the area, giving insight into everything from world cultures and science to art and architecture.

And, as the program has grown, so has the membership.

Chickering said there are more than 300 people who are part of IRP. The lectures usually average about 50 people.

There are dues — $20 per semester for one adult and $35 for couples.

But there are no requirements, she said.

"You just have to be a retired person," she said.  

Chickering said all ages are represented, from 55 to 80.

And while most members are from Pennsylvania, there are several people who travel from Hagerstown and as far away as Fairfax, Va.

Chickering said each eight-week fall and spring semester features two lectures every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — one at 9 a.m., the other at 10:30 a.m.

Each lecture lasts about an hour, she said, and includes time for questions and answers.

Chickering said topics and speakers usually reflect the interests of the members.

Last year, IRP asked members to take a survey and the single most requested topic, she said, was history, followed by travel.

All of the lectures are held in Wilson College's science center.

IRP also sponsors field trips, which always are popular, Chickering said.

However, you must be a dues-paying member to participate in the excursions, she said. There is an additional cost for the trips.

Upcoming bus trips include a visit to the U.S. National Botanic Garden in Washington, Dc., on Wednesday, March 30, as well as the Newseum and nearby art galleries; Fort Ligonier and St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., for a tour of the basilica and a Fred Rogers exhibit on April 20; and the Brandywine Museum and Valley Forge on April 27.

In addition to an education, Chickering said IRP offers good fellowship and newcomers always are welcome.

"All you have to do is show up for one of the lectures," she said.  "We always have a sign-up table at every meeting."

If you go ...

For more information about Institute for Retired Persons, contact Wilson College at 717- 264-4141 or go to

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