There is nothing like a new, slightly stiff backpack, shiny notebooks filled with clean white paper waiting for your thoughts and lethally sharpened pencils to ignite the thirst for learning. While the sound of a school bell may be a faint memory, these items could still be useful if you register for the fall semester at Penobscot Valley Senior College.

“But don’t let the word ‘college’ keep you from joining us,” said Stan Marshall, PVSC executive director. “The classes are more about discussion and the desire to learn new things than about a lecture. There are no tests or grades. It’s really about the joy of learning new things with people around the same age.” In fact, the only actual requirement is that you have reached your 50th birthday.

PVSC fall classes begin Friday, Oct. 3, and run through Friday, Nov. 7. Most classes will meet at the University of Maine in Orono, but there are exceptions. The classes are two hours each and have morning or afternoon sessions.

The PVSC, which is affiliated with the University of Maine Center on Aging, is one of 15 senior colleges sprinkled throughout the state and membership in this senior college system has many perks.

The annual fee of $25 for a single person, or $40 for two people living at the same address, buys a year’s worth of guaranteed fun. Courses are $30 each.

For example, members are given notice of courses in advance, invitations to free one-day programs and a free annual meeting luncheon with a guest speaker. Membership also offers the opportunity to enroll in courses at any senior college.

Here is a sampling of classes:

• “Exploding Myths in Nutrition” with Katherine O. Musgrave. There is a ton of advice out there about what constitutes a healthful diet. But what to believe? Come to this class and learn the truth. For instance, should we eat a diet that is low in fat or low in carbohydrates? Do we need vitamins? Musgrave leaves no stone unturned in getting to the right answer.

• “Personal Financial Management for Seniors.” This class is coordinated by several experts and offers “a comprehensive overview of financial topics affecting retirees and those planning retirement. Speakers will define problem situations and options for managing income by purchasing insurance, making alternative housing arrangements, investing pension resources and protecting your person and possessions. The final session will provide real-life descriptions of “people who were taken advantage of by those they trusted and by strangers with tempting offers,” according to the catalogue. Not to be missed in these uncertain financial times.

• “1968 — One of History’s Pivotal Years” with Joan Andren. Can you believe it has been 40 since the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War and the election of Richard Nixon? This year also saw the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, and the time of student sit-ins and strikes. Free speech, free love and Black Power salutes at the Olympics. A look back to see where we’ve been and where we are now.

There are many other classes that promise to pique your interest, including “The Civil War — A Personal Journey,” “Theatre at the Penobscot,” “How Plants and Animals Survive the Winter” and more.

To obtain information on the senior college or to get a catalogue, call 262-7927 or log onto, scroll down and click on the senior college button.

Your grandchildren may find it hard to believe, but learning can be fun.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, e-mail or log on TTY 992-0150.