AUGUST 28, 2013

Baby Boomer University opens in Paradise Valley

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PARADISE VALLEYA university targeting baby boomers, the fastest growing demographic in the country opens its classroom doors on Sept. 10 on the campus of Valley Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley.

Encore University, the first learning center of its kind on a church campus, is offering more than 60 classes for the 50 and older crowd each semester. It will also present lectures, weekly field trips and travel opportunities. Former Sen. Jon Kyl will be a guest speaker for Encore University at 9 a.m. on Oct. 5. The school’s second term starts Oct. 15.

“It’s a place where the largest and fastest growing demographic can still learn, explore, have adventures, make friends and make a difference,” said Becky Bennett, a church member who helped develop the university.

Encore University features 10 colleges including a College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Technology and Innovation. Classes will be offered in everything from drawing and gardening to film and finance. Scottsdale Healthcare is partnering with the university to provide educational opportunities as well as free screenings.

“The vision is to attract people who want a gathering place, a place to have a community, have fun, and continue to learn with no pressure of grades,” Bennett continued. “We want to provide all of that through this university concept.”

Encore University developed in response to research on the growing needs of the boomer population in the immediate area around the church and throughout Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. According to AARP magazine, since 2011, 8,000 boomers have turned 65 each day.    
 “It’s highly innovative and highly experimental,” said Ruth Reinhold, associate pastor of congregational care and fellowship at Valley Presbyterian Church. “To our knowledge, it has never been done anywhere in the country in a church setting before.”

Encore University hopes to provide an educational setting in a safe place where friendships are the by-product of coming together in a community of peers.

“A lot of people come to the Valley to retire or make a fresh start. They are looking for friends and frankly don’t know where to go to do that in a nonthreatening way,” said Reinhold. “Here they will be sitting in a class and meeting people. They are not having a drink with someone (at a bar), they are meeting in the setting of a school. It’s a very natural way to meet other people.”

Senior students can earn bachelors, masters and even PhD degrees. Individual classes are $25. The university is non-accredited.

 “I think one of the biggest things is that the price is right,” Reinhold continued. “For $100 you can take 60 classes. That’s the best deal in the entire town.” 

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