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OLLI provides great opportunities

  • OLLI members visit an alpaca farm, one of many “alternative classrooms.” Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 10/26/2018 3:00:40 PM

Bernard Osher was onto a good thing. Numerous scientific studies conclude that keys to healthy aging include keeping one’s mind active, social engagement and feeling useful.

Osher made those three attributes a requirement for financial support to create Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes across the entire United States. OLLI at Granite State College has been a part of healthy aging for thousands of New Hampshire seniors since its inception in 2004 thanks, in large part to Bernard Osher.

Osher, born and raised in Biddeford, Maine, founded the Bernard Osher Foundation in 1977 to support four particular interests – post-secondary scholarships, integrative medicine programs, arts and educational organizations and lifelong learning institutes for “seasoned adults.”

Offering grants to colleges and universities to support creation of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, the Osher Foundation’s guidelines outline 17 topic areas for the courses offered. This guarantees mental stimulation and assures there will be something of interest for all adult learners.

Guidelines also call for significant volunteer support from the membership. While this does keep costs reasonable, the primary motivation for this requirement is to engage the senior population which may suffer from post-retirement “what am I going to do with my life now?” syndrome. Volunteers are responsible for the curriculum, for planning and executing all events, for teaching classes and for supporting the administration of the program overall. The importance of their work is easy to define: no volunteers means no OLLI.

Social engagement is evident at any OLLI class or function as strangers come together to pursue a common interest and find the joy of interacting with like-minded peers. What does that mean – are all OLLI members of the same faith ... or political persuasion ... or economic background? Oh my, no!

The shared experiences of OLLI members come from:

■being raised in the ’40s and ’50s with Lassie, the Beaver, the Andersons and Howdy Doody;

■living through the ’60s, perhaps as a full-fledged hippie, a member of the armed services or a civil rights activist;

■raising families and building careers through the ’70s and ’80s, and ultimately;

■retiring or planning for it in the new millennium.

And the wide variety of personal experiences while navigating those common periods contribute to the richness of the dialog as OLLI members share where they’ve come from and how they live this next chapter of their lives.

In OLLI, social engagement is not synonymous with party-going. It is all about that sharing – sometimes it’s the quiet collegial activity of planning a program or editing a catalog, sometimes it’s a small group getting together for coffee and talking about the most interesting souvenir they collected while traveling. Sometimes it’s meeting face to face over a Scrabble board instead of the more impersonal Words with Friends computer game. And for the party animals, well, yes, there are also parties!

OLLI will be represented at the upcoming Active Aging program sponsored by the Concord Monitor and Monadnock Transcript-Ledger on Tuesday at the Bektash Shrine Center. Stop by and let us introduce OLLI to you.

(Jacki Fogarty is a member of OLLI.)

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