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East County Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 6 months ago

Creativity, virtual reality talk of the town in Lakewood Ranch

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Lecture series sparks intellectual interest in Lakewood Ranch.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Lakewood Ranch resident Ellen Sichel was ready to learn something new.

That’s just what she did Jan. 15 at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club when Peter McCallister of Ringling College of Art and Design told the audience Ben Franklin invented the bifocal lens at age 78.

McCallister said that as they age, they should keep a “flexible” outlook, continue to learn new things, stay socially active and do things like writing silly poems or taking art and dance classes.

Sichel, 64, took the advice to heart.

“It gave me food for thought,” Sichel said of the lecture. “I used to blog all the time. Creativity for me is sort of like spiritual food.”

Sichel and nearly 100 other residents of Lakewood Ranch and neighboring communities attended LWR Talks, the first in a

four-part series of lectures. The program is being offered through a partnership between the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Ringling College, Lakewood Ranch, Lakewood Ranch Community Activities and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.

At the inaugural presentation, attendees also heard from Ringling College’s Angela Leed about creative solutions to business problems using students and from Morgan Woolverton about the future of virtual reality.

Future lectures will include how the nation’s president is briefed on a daily basis, the possibilities of artificial intelligence and how to make life transitions as enjoyable as possible.

“There’s a pent-up need for lifelong learning out here in Lakewood Ranch,” said Waterlefe Golf and River Club resident Kathy Flora, who will be the April speaker for LWR Talks dealing with life’s transitions. “This is a community full of curious and inquisitive people. It’s full of people who have a history of learning as professionals.”

Flora said she also made new friends while grabbing breakfast before the lecture started. 

She said she and three women liked each other so much that they now are planning to have regular get-togethers. OLLI Executive Director Jana Overstreet said such social connections are a goal of the program.

“People are looking for their tribe,” she said.

Overstreet said OLLI has offered limited programming in Lakewood Ranch, but never felt like it truly understood the community’s wants and needs. 

The new partnership is providing a platform for creating new programming.

Lakewood Ranch Director of Community Relations Monaca Onstad said LWR Talks adds depth to Lakewood Ranch’s programming.

“We like the fact we can stay on the Ranch and do it,” she said with a smile.

Onstad and Overstreet said LWR Talks kicks off adult education programming in Lakewood Ranch. Workshops, lectures and other offerings will be held in the future.

“We’re testing the waters this year,” Overstreet said. “We’ll grow with each of these events we have.”

Those who attended said they are excited about what’s coming and the opportunity it creates for residents to learn, meet each other and change perceptions.

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