Cover Story

Lifelong Learning: The Gatesworth

There once was a time when human beings were considered fully formed, intellectually and emotionally, around the age of 21. Older adults were expected to reminisce about the past and chat about their grandchildren. Retirement was considered a period of gradual disengagement from the world, a phase of diminished activity and expectations.

Now we know better. There is no expiration date on curiosity and intellectual growth. In fact, studies on adult development show that mental stimulation, community involvement, a caring environment and plenty of social support are crucial to healthy aging. The Gatesworth provides all these elements—and then some.

The senior living community offers a wide range of learning and enrichment opportunities for residents, many of whom take classes at the Lifelong Learning Institute at Washington University, Lifelong Learning @ UMSL and OASIS Institute. It encourages active aging with a full spectrum of on-site educational programs and activities, as well. On any given day, residents might attend a talk by a leading professor, symphony musician, or expert from the History Museum or Missouri Botanical Garden. Topics include current events, history, philosophy, the arts and culture, and science/technology.

Terry Jones, Ph.D., professor of political science and public policy administration at University of Missouri-St. Louis, has led monthly discussions for The Gatesworth’s Questers program for more than 10 years. “Each session focuses on topics of local or national significance, be it recent Supreme Court decisions, issues up for discussion by the Missouri General Assembly, redistricting, or the use of public subsidies for the proposed new football stadium,” Jones explains. “The Gatesworth participants are well-read, well-informed, insightful and curious, bringing a richness of life and career experience that often makes them more of an expert than the teacher.”

Once, during a discussion of local race relations, Jones learned one of the residents had been a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. “Another time, during a lecture on the electoral system, I realized a guy sitting in the back of the classroom was a renowned specialist on electoral systems in Europe!” he recalls. “I recognized him and said, ‘John, is that you?’ I learn a great deal from these individuals who have had, and continue to have, a significant impact on our community.”

Residents benefit, too. “As a physician, I’ve always felt it’s important to exercise the mind as well as the body,” says Dr. Dolores Tucker, who moved to The Gatesworth with her husband, Thomas, last year. She regularly attends weekly Quester discussions and takes advantage of the community’s “nonstop” array of classes on history, politics, literature and the arts. “My fellow residents are educated and fully aware of what’s going on in the world,” she says. “The love of learning never goes away. Life doesn’t end when your children are grown or you retire from your job.” There’s only one problem, she adds. “The classes are really popular. You better get there early, or you won’t get a good seat!”

Pictured:Terry Jones, Ph.D., of UMSL
Photo: Tim Parker Photography

[The Gatesworth, located at One McKnight Place, offers a broad range of learning opportunities for residents. For more information, call 314.993.0111 or visit]