Proving that life and learning should not be limited by age, the Wiese brothers Bill, 67, and Stan, 77, recently returned to the classrooms of Rollins College to attend the school’s Center for Lifelong Learning.
“We’re always reading, and learning something new,” Bill said. “Learning never stops.”
“Education is the only thing you can take with you,” Stan said. “It’s the most important thing you can do for yourself.”
Bill earned his first degree, a bachelor’s in English from Rollins, in 2001 before moving on to complete a master’s in liberal studies in 2005.
“I took my time, taking just one or two classes each semester, but I did it,” he said.
Stan helped Bill fund his education the first time around, and now as the brothers return to school more than a decade later, Bill is returning the favor by paying for Stan’s classes.
Younger brother Bill also cares for Stan and helps him get around with the use of a wheelchair, pushing him across campus while the two chat amiably about everything under the sun, from the weather to the campus architecture to the subjects they are studying.
The Rollins’ Center for Lifelong Learning offers liberal studies classes for students ages 50 and older, covering everything from arts and literature. And there are also other sorts of classes designed specifically for seniors, such as doctor/patient relations, which teaches seniors how to get more out of their doctor visits.
“That one actually helped me a lot,” Stan said. “I learned to write down the things I wanted to discuss with my doctor and prioritize them so I didn’t waste time talking about unimportant things.”
“As you get older, some things naturally get more difficult.”
“In some real life situations it’s hard for seniors to think their way through it,” Bill said. “Your brain just doesn’t work the way you want it to.”
“The classes permit you to keep your brain operating instead of just vegetating,” Bill said.
“For instance, I sometimes have trouble remembering how to tie my shoelaces and things like that,” Stan said, “but I really enjoy studying Shakespeare.”
“It keeps your brain challenged,” Bill said.
Never ones to shirk from challenges, the brothers seem to have the ability to set their minds to something and with determination accomplish it.
With the threat of poor health looming, both decided to take matters into their own hands and lose some weight. They each lost approximately 130 pounds, using a diet and eating schedule Bill devised.
Bill has plans to write a book about the experience, in order to share their success with others who may be struggling with such a big change.
Big fans of cruising and world travel, the brothers have ambitious plans to travel to Antarctica someday soon.
The trip is long, but the brother’s say they’re up for it. It’s just a matter of flying to South America and traveling by boat from there, they said.
Learning new things and enjoying new experiences are just a part of everyday life for the Wiese brothers.
“We are avid readers,” Stan said. “I have kept a diary of every book I have enjoyed for the past 30 years.”
Stan’s created a archive with all the books listed by title and author, along with a brief description and a letter grade – A through F – for each. “Although I don’t think I’ve ever given an F,” he said.
“Usually I give an A or a B, and I never buy a book that gets less than a C,” said Stan, whose favorite topics include non-fiction and history, a subject he studied at Lee College in the ’50s.
“I had to quit college in ’60s,” he said, “but I never quit learning.”
As a hobby, both brothers build Shaker furniture, something they’ve done for about 15 years.
“It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to build something with your own hands,” Stan said.
The Wiese brothers are an anomaly in that they’ve managed to increase their enthusiasm for education with age, more curious now than many of those a quarter of their age.
“Somewhere along the line I realized that there was more to learn than I had time, and I realized that I needed to do the best I could to learn as much as I could,” Bill said.
“Seniors especially need to keep learning,” he said. “We need to keep our minds challenged.”
“You need to learn because a person who does not learn is empty and ill-prepared to face the challenges of the world. Learning must never stop, or you’ll be left behind,” Bill said.