It’s true: Never too old to learn

Eleven years ago, Gene Giannobile was contacted by a couple involved with Elderhostel with an idea to start a lifelong learning program in Pierce County. The three of them put their heads together to figure out some way to bring a lecture series for older adults to the community. They were successful and formed Learning is ForEver through the Elderhostel Institute Network, a not-for-profit organization that provides educational opportunities for older adults.

It turns out that there are a lot of seniors locally who are still vitally interested in learning about a wide range of topics.

Giannobile and others set up a program committee, and soon they started coming up with program ideas.

Laura Stewart is the Program Coordinator for Learning is ForEver.


“We are one of about 500 nationwide learning institutes for people age 50 and older, and the only one in Pierce County,” said Laura Stewart, the program coordinator for Learning is ForEver.

The program committee handles the paperwork and arranges for speakers for the one-day lecture series. They usually meet at Pacific Lutheran University’s bookstore, Garfield Book Company.

Giannobile, a retired high school counselor, said education has always been a priority for he and his wife.

“Both of us are retired educators, so we wondered how we could have a reasonably priced program for seniors who wanted to continue education but didn’t want to take a six-week course,” he said, “When we heard about this opportunity, we said ‘Wow!’”

Classes cost approximately $10 a session and run about one hour to 90 minutes. Giannobile said normal attendance is about 30, and the bonus is the social aspect of the gatherings.

“There is such camaraderie that has developed over the years, people carpooling and going out for lunch afterwards,” he said.

Giannobile said he enjoys the wide range of issues that are discussed.

“The variety of the programs that we have really puts me on the cutting edge of what is happening with areas that I would never look up on Google or read on my own,” he said, adding that after the lectures, he wants to learn more about what was discussed during the class.

Recent speakers included a man who worked as a ranger for the National Park Service for 46 years who shared information about all the national parks in Washington.

Upcoming programs include John McEvoy, a retired Air Force pilot who will speak on Nov. 14 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and “Christmas Carol Trivia” by D. Paul Schultz on Dec. 7 from 10:30 to 12:30.

Stewart says the high-quality speakers that come to the group encourages people to stay engaged and continue learning.

The group is member-run, and the program committee picks the classes and finds speakers. They also sponsor a nationwide program called Great Decisions. “We meet at the Puyallup Library in the afternoon every other Thursday starting in January for eight sessions,” said Giannobile.

For more information and the complete brochure about the program, go to or call Laura Stewart at (253) 241-4166.

Gene Giannobile, a retired high school counselor,has turned his attention to the minds of seniors by helping launch a lifelong learning program in Pierce County.