Curiosity never retires

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute woos older adults back to class

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Curiosity never retires. And that’s why so many older adults are now back in class — decades after graduating — thanks to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Denver.

“OLLI has been around now for 25 years in the Denver metro,” said Jacqueline Wyant, executive director of OLLI at DU. “Not only are we the best kept secret in town, offering the most affordable continuing education on seven convenient campuses, our senior students, or OLLI members, don’t do homework, there are no pop quizzes and the only grades they get are As for effort.”

A CliffsNotes rundown of OLLI

OLLI at DU is an adult learning membership program designed for inquiring adults, age 50 and better, who wish to pursue lifelong learning in a relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere, states OLLI’s website. Thanks to the generosity of The Bernard Osher Foundation and many community grants, the classes are affordable. OLLI at DU joins a network of more than 120 institutes nationwide that are helping mature learners find personal fulfillment.

“Basically, OLLI at DU offers members more than 170 different classes to choose from, spread out over three, eight-week terms - fall, winter and spring. OLLI members may elect to learn online or in-person. And our teachers are just as fascinating as the array of subjects we offer,” Wyant said.

Think peers teaching peers. The teachers, also known as facilitators, may be former school faculty members, community and civic leaders, independent scholars and even retired professionals such as doctors or lawyers. Essentially anyone who has a deep passion and knowledge about a hobby, skill or topic is welcome to teach a class, provided that OLLI standards are met.

OLLI members come from all walks of life, but everyone has the same common three goals: to stay engaged, stay active and make positive connections.

“I’m a retired lawyer and I was looking for something to keep the synapses clicking,” said OLLI member Larry Bass. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to tell you the teachers were very well-prepared and it’s been a worthwhile experience.”

The cornucopia of classes OLLI offers is ample - history, music, political science, writing, literature, philosophy, science, sports, religion, global issues, public affairs, film classes, nuclear power and bridge classes. There are even courses on sex and intimacy.

“I think anybody, and I mean anybody, can find a class at OLLI they’ll enjoy,” said OLLI member Suzy McKeever.

OLLI students may choose from four different memberships. The annual membership - only available in the fall - costs $400 per year and offers unlimited in-person and online courses during the fall, winter and spring terms, provided space is available. A one-term membership costs $140 for unlimited courses online and in-person, with the same space caveat. There may be additional costs for required class materials.

“We also offer an introductory membership for first time students (at) $50 per class,” Wyant said. “Lastly, we offer a facilitator membership. OLLI Facilitators are unpaid volunteers who are given access to the complete catalog of courses and webinars, and pay no term membership fee.”

Wyant highly recommends the individual workshops and webinars - which cost $15 each - to supplement an education or stay active between terms. She added there is an upcoming webinar on influential women that features wonderful speakers.

‘Do the math’

McKeever said anyone who still needs convincing should “do the math.”

“The price is fantastic,” McKeever said. “I sign up for the term membership and usually take three or four classes at a time. I mean, how can you beat it?”

OLLI memberships also include opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, such as trips to museums, wine and cheese socials and theater nights. OLLI also offers a slew of clubs — hiking and photography, for example — to encourage deeper connections outside of class.

“OLLI did an amazing job pivoting during the pandemic by transitioning to all online classes,” said OLLI facilitator Paul Simon.

Today, however, more and more people are attending in person, he added.

“Just to be able to keep learning and expand your mind is just so rewarding,” Simon said.

OLLI members are also rewarded with discounts at DU and area restaurants.

“My favorite part? I love OLLI just for the joy of learning and being with people my own age,” Wyant said.

And — there’s no homework.

OLLI, lifelong learning, Denver

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