Elder Quest: Elderly Engaged in Education


It’s a snowy Tuesday morning and Birdie Strey, an experienced actress, is in her element. It is the first day of “Experiencing Drama & Theater”, a class she teaches in a small recital room at the Piano Gallery in South Orem. To a room full of 10-12 retirees, Strey explains the importance of acting as they rehearse, “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“You need to become that character,” Strey said. “Become that person through your body movements, facial expressions and how you say your lines.”

The drama class is one of the many courses Utah Valley residents can take through Elder Quest, associated with UVU’s Continuing and Community Education. This program is a service to older adults ranging from 60 to 80 years old. The teachers are also retired and solely volunteers. By offering hour and half classes ranging from art to music, older adults are able to experience culture and art in the comfort of their community.

[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]“It consists of retired people who love to learn,” Julia Blair, curriculum director of Elder Quest said. “Everyone is welcome, and there is no added social pressure.”

The mission statement of the program explains that Elder Quest “provides engaged lifelong learning for the individual and community through quality non-credit services. We serve as an outreach arm of the University and strengthen the regional community and economy.” By becoming a member of Elder Quest, for $35 a year, patrons are welcome to take an unlimited number of classes offered Monday through Friday.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with Elder Quest,” Strey said. “It’s one of the greatest programs for seniors, and accompanied with so many wonderful volunteers.”

Many teachers, like Strey, also participate in the classes offered by Elder Quest in addition to being a teacher. Strey moved to Utah from California two years ago after years of teaching social studies and drama classes in middle schools, as well as directing numerous plays throughout her life. Now, she finds comfort teaching the choreography of “Tradition,” the opening song from ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’

Dave Johnson, the vice president of the organization is currently in Strey’s drama class.

“The idea is that we all enjoy one another and have fun together,” Johnson said. “We have everything, from literature, to a class on the civil war and a class on Alaska.”

Elder Quest offers a total of 17 courses offered twice a year, including an Alaskan cruise during which students draw upon the information taught in class.

Over the past 17 years, Elder Quest has seen success teaching and engaging the community. Now, Strey is looking to recruit more men to her drama class. One participant had a solution.

“Hey Birdie, if you want the men in your class, you need to recruit the civil war class,” Katie Bradford said.

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