During a recent ALLE Learning class that explored the history of Route 66, lifelong learners compared information and memories that reflected and recalled many different reasons for travel on the infamous highway. Most of the memories were funny such as a child - one of six siblings - being left behind at a roadside "gas" station and not missed until many miles later (funnier now!). Others recalled leaving home for the first time as students, newlyweds, and young soldiers who traveled on Route 66.

The study of history is the study of humanity, and it reveals truths about the human condition. Studying history shows that people are fundamentally similar to each other, regardless of where and when they lived, and that differences arise because cultures adapted to different environments and events.

Studying past events such as America's Highway Route 66 allows learners to reflect on their personal life experiences. Things that were important to them are how they remembered history and the effects of an event on their lives. We often refer to it as "making room in the present for the past." Route 66 is a particularly interesting topic because it spans generations of residents in senior living communities today: the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, and the Baby Boomers.

Another significant benefit of learning about history; the staff can learn about past events and develop a deeper connection with residents. Many Activity Directors are younger and didn't live through the events that changed the lives of residents. Providing programming for three generations at one time is challenging and is often not considered when filling out the monthly calendar.

Of course, it's impossible to discuss taking to the open road without recalling the famous Burma Shave signs. Everyone seemed to remember at least one favorite, which led to an activity that had us all laughing long after class ended. On this day, the large group was divided into small groups, and each group received 2-3 images of "common" household items popular during the "heyday" of the Route 66 era. Our learners got to work, producing clever, funny limericks and rhymes. Anyone who thinks senior learners can no longer enjoy a good laugh and be a little naughty should have been present; this group got rowdy! The most important lesson for those who have the honor of working with these special people was a poignant reminder of how much they enjoy coming together to learn new information, collaborate to create something meaningful, reflect and recall past life experiences, and have a good laugh. Can you guess why this was the Burma Shave winner?

Walker, walker, how great thou art,                                                                                                                          

You're greater than any fancy cart.                                                                                                                          

You fulfill my needs wherever you go                                                                                                                               

As long as you don't go too slow!

Learn more about curriculum options by visiting Phoenix-based ALLE Learning™ at www.alle-learning.com, emailing us info@alle-learning.com, or calling us at (602) 418-5196. Learn about our related program that supports community-based assisted living and memory care, EngAGE EnCOURAGE ™, or our home-based program for persons living with dementia and their caregivers, Engaging at Home™.