The Learning Institute for Elders (LIFE) at UCF was organized in January, 1991, as a partnership between LIFE and the University of Central Florida. LIFE at UCF provides non-credit lifelong learning experiences for older adults aged 50 and over, within the context of a major university. It is unique among the more than 400 lifelong learning institutes nationwide, in that it is a privately incorporated 501(C)3 organization that is hosted by UCF. Most other programs are run by the university through a continuing education program or by some other university unit.
After informal agreements that governed its initial operations, a formal “partnership agreement” was signed in 2003 outlining the nature of the partnership. This partnership agreement was revised in 2006 upon the reorganization of the College of Arts and Sciences into two separate colleges and the placement of LIFE under the College of Sciences. In 2008, the sponsorship moved to the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. This agreement specifies that UCF, through the academic unit(s) to which LIFE reports, will provide administrative office space and classroom space for the weekly meetings during the academic year. In turn, LIFE will dedicate allocate a significant portion of its excess operating funds to a program of annual grants and awards. This partnership agreement was renewed again in September 2014. This new agreement is for 10 years, and reflects the very beneficial relationship that exists between the university and LIFE.
To date, this highly valued partnership has enriched the lives of older adults in Central Florida, and in turn has provided models of successful aging and lifelong learning to the UCF community. Talented faculty from every college have shared their knowledge and intellectual passions. LIFE members have served as research participants for faculty and graduate students from departments across the university. Life membership has grown from an original 50 to now 750 members. Membership is presently limited by the capacity of the class venues, and as a result a significant waiting list exists. The LIFE board of directors is looking at several technologies it hopes will be able to expand memberships to all those that wish to join the organization.
Membership in LIFE has many benefits. Members are able to attend lecture series throughout each year. The lecture series are developed by the LIFE curriculum committee and include speakers from all academic disciplines, industry and the government. Membership also includes parking privileges, reduced football game, theatrical and musical performances ticket prices, and access to the UCF library. Members also are able to participate in many gerontology related research projects.
LIFE has recognized the contributions of UCF by awarding to date over $650,000 through its annual grant and awards programs. Additionally, the LIFE Board pledged $20,000 for the new Psychology Building, and individual members have contributed over $15,000 to the Psychology Building Auditorium “Take Your Seat” campaign, and one half of a Medical School scholarship worth $20,000 per years for four years. Clearly, this has been a mutually rewarding and highly successful partnership that continues to grow and flourish.
Since its inception, UCF has provided a faculty liaison to LIFE to serve as advisor to the group and as a facilitator for LIFE at UCF’s interactions with the university. That role to date has been filled by Dr. Richard Tucker, now Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Director, Initiative on Aging and Longevity. Dr. Tucker provides LIFE a vital link to the university. His continuous effort has contributed significantly to the overall success of LIFE , and is greatly appreciated.
LIFE is managed by a board of directors composed of 18 LIFE members that are elected for 3 year terms. Board officers are currently serving board members that are elected by the board for a one year term. All are volunteers as are all the numerous committee members and special assistants that keep the operations running smoothly. Volunteers are always needed to assist and members are encouraged to sign up to assist. By managing operations through volunteers our membership dues have been kept to a minimum , while also allowing us to provide significant financial grants to the UCF faculty and students.