Resident Chuck Mortensen,95, volunteers at the CLU’s Communication Cafe. Every week, he and 13 other residents from University Village Thousand Oaks help international graduate students practice their English speaking skills. Photo courtesy of Acorn Newspapers.

There’s no way of telling just how many lives Ida O’Donoghue has impacted. She spent more than 35 years teaching English as a second language. Even after retiring, she’s still donating her time and talents to help international graduate students attending California Lutheran University (CLU).

Ida is one of 14 residents of University Village Thousand Oaks who participate in the Communication Cafe at CLU. Every Tuesday, the group of residents meets with students on campus to help them better understand the English language. The students are from across the world, including China, Taiwan, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to continue to grow intellectually,” O’Donoghue noted in the Thousand Oaks Acorn newspaper. “Because if you don’t grow, you know what happens? You go the other way. And so that’s a good thing.”

Ida says the residents often learn just as much as the CLU students. Studies show that lifelong learning programs like the Communication Cafe could help increase vitality in seniors and may create new brain cells to fight against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In addition, these intergenerational programs offer students a better understanding of the senior population.

“It’s always good for older adults to be around younger people. There’s a certain energy, a certain oxygen that is there… it’s certainly true that I learn as much from them as they do from me,” O’Donoghue said.

Read the full Thousand Oaks Acorn article.