The Society of Active Retirees offers classes on a variety of topics.

The Society of Active Retirees offers classes on a variety of topics.

Photo provided by SOAR

SOAR offers seniors a ‘health club for the brain’

By: Linda Shepard | Farmington Press | Published April 5, 2019

 The Society of Active Retirees offers classes and events for a range of interests.

The Society of Active Retirees offers classes and events for a range of interests.

Photo provided by SOAR


FARMINGTON HILLS — For the past 15 years, the Society of Active Retirees has provided seniors with the opportunity to add a vital intellectual component to their lives.

The organization, known as SOAR, is a lifelong learning community affiliated with Wayne State University.

The society, based in Farmington Hills, was first organized by a group of retired university faculty members.

“I taught at Wayne State University and retired in 1994,” Martin Herman said. “I became involved in a program aimed at retirees — people who didn’t want to sit at home and just watch game shows. We developed the SOAR program in 2003.”

The program offers classes in the arts, health, history, landscaping, science, culture and more.

“Our members like to stay engaged and active. We try to be as exciting as we can,” SOAR Executive Director Dionna Lloyd said. “Instructors talk about current issues, foreign policies and whatever the current thing is. Because we are dealing with seniors, they are very opinionated and they know their stuff, especially if it is something they are interested in.”

Lloyd said SOAR faculty members are a distinguished and diverse group. Many are retired academics from Wayne State University, Oakland University, the University of Michigan or other colleges in the area.

Member Dan Harmon said he joined the organization 10 years ago after retiring.

“I started attending to learn new things without having to take a test or get grades,” he said. “The first class I took was a history class taught by a professor from the University of Michigan who was a retired army colonel. He was an outstanding presenter.”

Harmon eventually became more involved, joining the SOAR board and teaching a class on international issues and great decisions.

“A member told me SOAR is like the college you always wanted — with no grades or papers to write,” Herman said. “And it is a lot more fun teaching people who are interested in what you have to say. We have a very educated and engaged membership.”

“We started off with 250 members. We now have a membership of 1,200 people,” Lloyd said. “We service 57 communities. We have people come from Rochester, Canton, Novi — from  all over.”

The spring 2019 SOAR term offers more than 77 lectures, outings and special events for people 50 and older. Registration began April 1, and lectures begin April 29.

Two six-week terms offer classes on a wide range of subject matters for two-hour sessions in mornings and afternoons.

In addition, the society offers special events, including film festivals with moderated discussions, lectures by distinguished and notable luminaries, and a broad and varied range of cultural and musical events. A justice series is devoted to exploring diverse social justice issues in a variety of formats: lectures, panel discussions, mock trials and films.

Upcoming spring courses include “Nazi Art as Propaganda,” “Frank Lloyd Wright in Michigan,” “The Detroit Bankruptcy Story,” “The Me Too Movement,” “Bringing Yoga into Your Daily Life,” and a documentary film titled “Does Accuracy Equal Truth?”

Speakers include historian Wendy Evans, architect Stephen Vogel, Judge Stephen Rhodes, film analyst Elliot Wilhelm, yoga instructor Doris Sheikh and attorney Deborah Gordon.

Most SOAR classes meet at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills or at nearby locations.

For more information about SOAR or to enroll, visit or call (248) 626-0296.