Can lifelong learning help keep you young? The answer is yes, according to Frances “Francie” Richey, resident of Friendsview, a senior living community in Newberg.
As the granddaughter of Polish immigrants, Francie says that “education was very important in our family. I always knew I wanted to teach because I’d lecture my dog and dolls.” In high school, a beloved teacher prompted her to teach a seventh grade French class, launching a decades-long teaching career in languages.
During her junior year at Boston’s Emmanuel College in 1967, Francie studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. She returned there for graduate work in 1969 and later became a professor of French at Redford College in Virginia. She would go on to teach language at the elementary level through high school, mainly in Massachusetts. Francie later became certified in social studies as well, teaching American history and world geography. Over the course of her 36-year career teaching children through college-age students, Francie’s favorite level was seventh grade, saying the willingness to learn and exuberance of these students inspired her. After decades in Massachusetts, Francie found new inspiration in Oregon.
“I love the Willamette Valley so much because it reminds me of France with all the vineyards and farmland,” she says.
In 2006, Francie purchased a home in Dayton and continued along the path of lifelong learning. She enrolled in courses to become a court mediator, but found the discipline less inspiring than French, and chose to pursue other interests. It didn’t stop her from exploring other opportunities, though, like volunteering for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey in Carlton, as well as frequently visiting the historic Joel Palmer House Restaurant, which is owned by her cousin.
After suffering two bouts of pneumonia, Francie understood that another important life transition loomed on her horizon. “I got scared. It was the first time I thought, ‘you’re alone Francie.’” She began shopping for senior living communities and in 2013, discovered Friendsview where she moved to the fifth floor Manor neighborhood, one among twelve.
“I really like the ethic here, the values,” she says. “I like that they have an Education committee, and that George Fox University (GFU) is just across the street. I can take courses or go to lectures. I also have the best view of the whole place — a panoramic view of the Chehalem Mountains.”
With so many activities at her fingertips, a vibrant downtown within walking distance, and a nearby university, Francie found that Friendsview suits her lifelong learning goals. Soon, she was auditing a class in creative non-fiction.
“Francie was wholly invested in that class and in the community we were building there,” says Dr. Melanie Springer Mock, her English professor for the class. “The young people hung on her every word. Francie perfectly exemplifies lifelong learning. She has an open, curious heart, and boundless energy.”
Their partnership continued well after the class ended. Francie was key in bringing Dr. Mock’s students to Friendsview to interview residents for a class project. This mix of different ages and differing backgrounds came together to share their experiences and make new friends. “Lifelong learning lets people continue building empathy for others,” says Dr. Mock, “especially for those who are different from you.”
“You stay younger when you meet people with interesting and varied backgrounds and life experiences,” adds Francie. “That’s what’s so fascinating about the people here.”
Lifelong learning reaches beyond book-learning alone, according to Francie. As an artist and flautist working in the Hess Creek Canyon that borders her home, Francie believes that art and other activities are yet another form of education. When residents take advantage of the resources at Friendsview, they gain new knowledge and expand their horizons.
And as the Friendsview campus initiates its own plan for expansion, the opportunity to meet others with diverse backgrounds will grow significantly. Founded by Quakers in 1961, the community plans to add 96 apartment homes and 28 duplex cottages over the next few years. This will nearly double the resident population. For Francie, who has a high curiosity level, this doubles the odds of broadening her worldview and lifelong learning aspirations.
“If I couldn’t continue learning, I might as well give up,” she says. Luckily, living at Friendsview, Francie doesn’t need to worry about that.