About 18 years ago, the Third Age Learning Center, or TALC, was launched in the Houston Heights and has grown into a model program for improving the quality, productivity and joy in the lives of aging adults. The TALC provides local senior citizens with an extensive selection of interesting classroom instruction, new friends, and a fresh, hot lunch Monday through Friday in the spring and fall. About 330 seniors enroll each semester, enriching their lives.
Located in the cavernous Parish Hall at All Saints Catholic Church, the space would seem too large for the TALC. Not so. About 50 or 60 seniors regularly fill the hall for lunch; sometimes the seniors even perform on the room’s stage. Line dancing demonstrations, plays, ukulele bands and an occasional Elvis impersonator are examples of just a few.
Classes start at about 9 a.m., and culminate with lunch at noon. The students are not required to be Catholic to join. These lively, interesting, caring men and woman are not required to be anything other than adults age 55 or older who are hungry for learning and fun. The TALC is an all-volunteer effort. Membership costs $7 dollars a year. With about 40 local citizens donating their time each day, all the teachers are volunteers and most of the classes are $5 a semester.
Instruction includes subjects such as Texas Hold ‘em, quilting, Ti Chi, and Computer 101. The hot lunch – including a main course, sides, a dessert and beverage – are available for an exceedingly nominal fee. As an independent nonprofit agency separate from All Saints Catholic Church, the TALC operates due to grants its board of trustees seek annually. The partnership with the church has proven to be a happy one for both organizations. The center reimburses the church for the use of the hall, and the food costs are the responsibility of the center.
Carolyn Kares has been a volunteer with TALC for years and finds the work enormously rewarding. This vital woman has forged many friendships and memories over her time. “It is a joy and an honor to participate, and to see our seniors happy,” she stated.
Liz Lester is serving her second term as President of the board for the TALC, and has been with the agency for 15 years. This active, natural-born leader is herself a senior and will celebrate her 85th birthday this week. She thrives as a member of TSLC and it shows: she could pass for 60.
“The learning center is a tremendous program,” Lester said. “Our students are people who might not eat well at home, and would be isolated without the center. Here, our students make friends and learn new things, enriching their lives.”
Jo’ Kelley is a member of All Saints Catholic Church and also served as President of the TALC four different time over her years with the agency. She has seen it grow exponentially. Kelley will not take credit for the success of the program, but she clearly deserves much of it.
“The element I most cherish is the support, care and friendship we all enjoy here,” Kelley explained. “For many of us, our families live elsewhere, and life would be a very different without the center. The classes are remarkable and lots of fun, but the happy, healthy, vital spirit of our members is what always amazes me.”
And what about the name? What does “third age” mean? “We believe that the first age in a person’s life is for ‘learning,’ the second age is for ‘earning’ and the third age is for ‘returning’,” Kelley explained.
“The third age is for giving it all back,” she concluded with a smile.
Do you know someone who would thrive in the TALC? Enrollment for the spring semester will start in late January. For more information, call Ms. Liz Lester at 713-862-5444.