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Hilja and Phil Nast Plan Their Days Around University for Seniors

Hilja and Phil Nast practice Tai Chi  
Hilja and Phil Nast practice Tai Chi  

Phil and Hilja Nast, members of University for Seniors for over a decade, moved to Duluth about 11 years ago when they retired and their interests changed. Previously living in upstate New York for roughly 30 years, they found Duluth to be a perfect fit with the positive qualities of a big city without crime and other negative qualities of a big city. Retiring from an active and outdoors lifestyle, Duluth provided them with beautiful Lake Superior and a civilized urban area where they could be a part of a program that has recurrently impacted their life.

Hilja was born in Finland and moved to New York when she was 19 years old. Her accomplishments include running marathons and participating in outdoor skiing competitions. She has spent time in Alaska and has traveled to many places in the Middle East. She teaches Tai Chi for University for Seniors.

Phil, a former university history professor, also teaches classes for University for Seniors. Phil and Hilja agree that the intellectual aspects of being back at school are the most important. The communication and discussion that takes place among the members is what makes this program special. Phil said, “Anyone can just go read a book, it’s the interaction with others that’s important. You can learn more from listening than talking.”

The University for Seniors often invite UMD students into the classroom of the seniors; there are often foreign students that come in and share their experiences. Phil said, “The young people will keep us young. You know?” Both the students and the seniors have the opportunity to gain a new perspective on past, current, or future events.

Hilja and Phil Nast  
Hilja and Phil Nast  

University for Seniors has brought the couple together with other members of the community who tend to think the same way. Phil said, “University for Seniors gave us a chance to meet new friends. Normally, you meet new people at your job or other places but we have formed a second family here that share a common interest with us.”

There is a broad selection of classes that are offered in the program. One of their favorite courses was an Opera class that incorporated a historical context of the time the musical pieces were created. Hilja said, “I have taken so many classes, there has not been one class that I didn’t like or enjoyed. They are all great.”

The University for Seniors is a lifelong education opportunity dedicated to enhancing the intellectual and cultural development of individuals of 50 years or older. It brings together people who share a motivation and charisma for knowledge. Over 40 classes are offered during three 8 week sessions over fall, winter, and spring terms. Phil said, “The longest stretch of the year is waiting out the summer before fall term starts.” Both Phil and Hilja participate year round at the University for Seniors program.

For more information, visit the University for Seniors website.

Written by Courtney Salmala, February, 2015.

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