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For Older Idahoans, Online Classes Help Fight Social Isolation

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A program designed as a source of continuing education for older Idahoans has a new function during the pandemic: combatting social isolation.

New Knowledge Adventures is in its sixth year of offering classes to people age 50 and over. Because of COVID-19, its classes have moved online, said Carol Hourcade, who chairs the outreach committee for the organization.

"If you take a class on a certain subject, another class member is in that class because you share some commonalities," she said. "And so, there have been some very strong friendships that have formed among people who take the classes also."

Hourcade noted that continuing education can improve brain health. Classes span a wide variety of subjects, from Idaho history to understanding Alzheimer's disease and dementia, to a how-to guide for making liqueurs. New Knowledge Adventures is supported by AARP Idaho and Idaho State University's Meridian Health Science Center.

Hourcade described the classes as having a relaxed atmosphere. In other words, it isn't like college; folks aren't graded. Last fall was New Knowledge Adventures' first semester online. When the semester ended, she said, the organization asked people for feedback about how they'd like to meet in the future.

"Surprisingly," she said, "the majority of people would like to see us move toward a hybrid model, where there are some in-person classes in the Treasure Valley, and then also virtual classes that will be more accessible to people further away from the Treasure Valley, and in other states."

Because the courses take place online, people can sign up on the day they take place. They're being offered today, through May.