Lifelong Learning Month Op ED

Did You Know November 2019 is Lifelong Learning Month?

~ Robert V. Carlson, Ed.D., President of SCALL

The commissioners of Manatee County, Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota have declared November 2019 as Lifelong Learning Month. Their proclamations are too lengthy to quote here in their entirety, but they share the view that Lifelong Learning Month reflects “the importance and benefits of older adults pursuing knowledge and skills that will positively influence their mental, physical and social life.” Mounting evidence continues to suggest that the pursuit of classes, lectures and special events (e.g., conferences) stimulate brain activity that increases a sense of wellbeing and a feeling of being connected to others.

These processes of learning also fulfill our native sense of curiosity. Satisfying one’s curiosity feels pleasurable and thus, we continue to explore new ideas and skills even when we don’t expect any immediate or concrete payoff. Or to put it another way, it may not seem relevant today but possibly next week (or whenever), it will.
It should be noted that in the two-county area of Manatee and Sarasota, there are 50 plus nonprofit organizations that provide a plethora of learning choices. Thus, it is not a problem of access but more of a problem of knowing what’s available. A recent survey conducted by SunCoast Alliance for Lifelong Learning discovered that seven major providers of lifelong learning options collectively provided last year: 3,500 offerings that were attended by nearly 60,000 people and used 430 instructors, 650 volunteers, and 52 different venues. In addition, a small subset of lifelong learning organizations reported a $416,000 financial impact involving attendance at special attractions, lodging and engaging in culinary options. These data document the breadth and depth of choice we have in our community and at our doorstep. It is not a problem of choices but a matter of finding out who is offering what and where.

To address this challenge, the SunCoast Alliance of Lifelong Learning (SCALL) provides several options to become informed of what is available and where located. Two major efforts stand out: The SCALL website and SCALL’s annual LLEXPO. The SCALL website ( has brought together 20 plus organizations that provide multiple possibilities. The site has a search option that permits exploring across these organizations’ specific topical areas of interest and a link to the providing organization. An easy few clicks and a menu of choices can be explored.

The LLEXPO is an annual event at which providers of lifelong learning programs and supporting sponsors come together to share and celebrate the marvels of lifelong learning opportunities in the SWFL region. The representatives at exhibiting tables provide an excellent opportunity to answer attendee’s questions concerning their program offerings. In addition, speaker panels are provided on timely and relevant topics. LLEXPO20 will be offered on February 5, 2020, at the Carlisle Inn and Conference Center. In addition to the exhibits, two panels will explore the topics of the health benefits of humor and laughter and the water quality challenges facing the SWFL region. Information on the EXPO is posted on the SCALL website.

Much to learn, much to understand, much to explore, and much to do…all of which is closer by than your favorite café. Join with others to feel the joy of learning and the making of new friends. That’s what lifelong learning is all about!