SOUTH BEND — For the past few months, a group of about 50 seniors has been enjoying the availability of the Notre Dame Downtown center , where they gather — usually on the fourth Monday of each month — for the “Lunch and Learn” series.p.
May was the exception to this schedule, being held on a Wednesday, and done as a tea at 2 p.m. Brookes Ebetsch of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame gave a presentation about the artwork of Yreina Cervantes, many of which were displayed around the gallery.
Located on the ground floor of the Robertson Apartment building on South Michigan Street, Notre Dame Downtown is convenient for seniors living downtown to come and socialize. Jacquelyn Rucker, director of Community Relations for Notre Dame, explained how the “Lunch and Learn” series grew from suggestions offered by seniors from the area. “There were lots of suggestions,” Rucker said.
In previous months, “We’ve talked about all sorts of things,” she continued. Presentations on living wills, funeral pre-planning, and prescription card plans have been among the topics. Rucker also sees where future events might involve a trip for the seniors to the Snite Museum on the Notre Dame campus, to enjoy first-hand the exhibits there, and a lecture about them. Having a legal professional come in to discuss grandparents as parents is another idea, as is having a representative from the Forever Learning Institute provide an overview of classes offered there.
Elsie Huys, a Robertson Apartments resident, attended the May “Lunch and Learn,” as she has past events. “I find them very educational,” she commented. “And the luncheons are delicious.”
For the May tea, muffins, fruit and other buffet items were donated by Fiddler’s Hearth. Seniors filled their plates and settled at the tables to listen to Ebetsch’s presentation, as well as chat among themselves and with newcomers.
“It’s fun to be with people,” Eunice Miller said. She also came down from her apartment in the Robertson building. “It gives us something to do.”
Not that the seniors miss mowing the lawn or shoveling the snow, as Sr. Marianne, SSJ-TOSF chuckled. It was her first time at a Lunch and Learn, and she was enjoying the lively conversation.
Rucker sees where the Lunch and Learn series offers a chance for seniors living in the Karl King Tower, St. Joseph’s Tower, Robertson Apartments and other locations near the downtown area to get out and stay active. The presentations usually run about 20 minutes, giving those in attendance plenty of time to enjoy their meal and the interaction with others. The series is offered at no cost, as well.
“It’s a place to go to talk to people,” Ruth Turnock added.
The Notre Dame Downtown center is also working on implementing other suggestions offered by area seniors. Rucker recounted how the staff poll seniors to find out what they wanted to see offered. The idea of a Computer Club, similar to what is offered at the Robinson Community Learning Center — also an effort of Notre Dame on North Eddy Street — was mentioned.
“We had 25 people signed up, before we even had the computers,” Rucker chuckled.
IBM donated the computers, and the club will have six week sessions, meeting twice each week, starting this summer. While the seniors won’t have to worry about quizzes or class requirements, Evangeline Neal, who also teaches at the Robinson Center, will help them enrich their lives by learning about computers in useful ways.
Also in the works for the future will be a periodic “game night,” which Rucker hopes will bring students from Notre Dame downtown, to interact with the seniors, playing cards or board games.
When not in use for Lunch and Learns, the gallery also hosts art exhibits which the seniors can enjoy at their leisure.
All in all, Notre Dame Downtown is bringing culture and knowledge to the seniors, who might not otherwise be able to get out and enjoy it.