Sharing the Joys of Learning: Continuing Care Communities

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elder woman in CCRCIntellectual wellness is one of six inter-related dimensions of overall whole-person wellness, which is becoming a major focus for many older adults seeking a healthy lifestyle. Charlotte Alexander, a resident of Goodwin House Alexandria (GHA),is a wonderful example of a commitment to life-long learning and self-directed efforts to achieve intellectual wellness, which also helps her to achieve overall wellness.

Mrs. Alexander, who moved to GHA in September 1998, has been attending classes at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) for over 19 years. Her concept of education includes traditional classrooms, as well as informal settings. She is currently enrolled in her 54th course at NVCC-an honors seminar on British writer Graham Greene.

“I love literature and history courses; I think I have taken every one offered,” said Alexander. Mrs. Alexander finds GHA’s location perfect for her quest for knowledge. “All I have to do is cross the street, and I cannot say enough about the quality of the courses at NVCC.”

A wonderful opportunity for all seniors in the area is the Maturals Program offered at NVCC’s Alexandria Campus. The program, designed for mature adult learners, is free and open to all interested members of the Northern Virginia community. Since 1992, Mrs. Alexander has served on the Maturals Program Advisory Committee, which selects speakers and subjects for the program. “The Maturals Program is celebrating its 20 year anniversary, and we usually have at least ten Goodwin House residents attend the Spring and Fall lectures,” said Alexander.

Mrs. Alexander is such a supporter of education that in July 1997, she made a donation to the Educational Foundation of the NVCC to honor her late husband, who also participated in many classes at NVCC. She was surprised when the college asked if they could name the front courtyard of the Schlesinger Center in honor of her and her late husband, Dr. A. John Alexander.

For six years, from 1997-2002, Mrs. Alexander also funded the A. John Alexander Memorial Scholarship for academic excellence, which was awarded to two Alexandria students graduating from T.C. Williams High School to help them further their college careers.

Education does not stop at the college for Mrs. Alexander. She started a Book Club at Goodwin House Alexandria in April of 1999. The club has read and discussed over 50 books since its inception and is generally attended by 15-20 residents depending on the book.

“Residents enjoy the club because many times they read things that they would normally not pick up. The discussions about the books are very interesting because those participating come from different backgrounds,” Alexander said.

“I love to learn and try to encourage many others to take advantage of the many wonderful opportunities around us. There are also many other residents who have proactively continued their education, and I hope after people read this, there will be even more,” said Alexander. For more information about programs sponsored by Northern Virginia Community College, check the NVCC website at

Article written by Colleen Ryan Mallon. For more information on other lifelong learning programs in the area, see the article on the University of Retirement.

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