What is OLLI, the Lifelong Learning Program for Seniors?

Through the years, you’ve had countless reasons to learn: ABCs and algebra, managing your money, gaining skills for a successful career, and changing diapers with one eye barely open. They were important lessons, and they likely served you well.

Now, you may be entering a new season of life, but that’s no reason to abandon your passion for learning. In fact, retirees who engage in lifelong learning discover how learning later in life brings numerous rewards.


How Lifelong Learning Benefits Seniors

As a lifelong learner, you gain far more than a burgeoning library of knowledge and skills. In fact, the benefits of lifelong learning for seniors go well beyond simply learning something new. Research suggests lifelong learning can play a role in protecting your memory and even delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. What’s more, developing new skills and delving into topics that interest you promote a sense of pride and self-satisfaction, and spending time with a group of peers who share your interests is a natural path toward greater social engagement, which offers numerous mental and physical health benefits.


Learning for the Joy of It

While many opportunities exist for older adults to return to school and complete academic credentials or gain skills, fewer options allow seniors to participate in education for the pure joy of learning—absent of grades, exams, or career demands.

About two decades ago, The Bernard Osher Foundation began addressing that gap with the formation of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), the result of an endowment grant to the University of Southern Maine to support lifelong learning programs for seniors.

OLLI programs vary to some degree from one location to the next, but all share some core features, and all are offered to nurture the joy of learning. Programming is available to students ages 50 and older with content that is stimulating and educational, but not for credit.

 Many of the Institutes are cooperative in nature, with members able to serve as either teacher or student (or both!), as well as taking on volunteer and leadership roles to sustain the program.

 Courses may be lecture, discussion, hands-on, or some combination of these, and other types of programming span travel opportunities, study groups, and community projects. There are no prerequisites, and students, who are referred to as “members,” don’t need to have any formal education background in order to enroll.

The course catalogs differ depending on the needs of the local community, but you can expect to find a large selection of classes geared toward hobbies and practical lifestyle skills, like learning new art techniques or instruments or how to operate a digital camera or smartphone. Other classes delve into traditional topics like history, art appreciation, philosophy, and more.


Where to Find OLLI Courses

OLLI classes are available through partnerships with the nation’s major colleges and universities, and the classes are held on campus, at community locations like libraries, and even at some senior living communities. For example, residents of The Moorings at Lewes, a Springpoint community in Lewes, Delaware, take courses through a partnership with OLLI at the University of Delaware. Some classes are even held at The Moorings, making it incredibly convenient for residents to participate. 

In other parts of the country, you can find OLLI programs affiliated with grantees in each of the 50 states. Many OLLIs also offer online courses for seniors, so you can take them from the comfort of home, no matter where home is.


Living and Learning with Springpoint

Contact us to learn more about becoming a resident of one of our Springpoint communities, where you can share an enriching retirement lifestyle with peers who share your passion for lifelong learning.

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