Spring cut short, but OLLI looks ahead

  • —Courtesy

  • Cyrena Arnold, seen in an OLLI weather class last year, was due to teach members how to set up a weather data station in their back yard. Now that would have given us something to do. Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 3/23/2020 7:56:07 PM

OLLI at Granite State College provides educational, social and volunteer opportunities for engaged adults over the age of 50. Hmmmmm, is that a group you’ve heard a lot about lately?

It should come as no surprise that OLLI has canceled all classes, social events, special interest group programs and meetings in full support of the CDC guidelines for social distancing. By definition, OLLI members tend to be active vibrant people who are often surprised to find themselves called “elders” or “seniors.” One meme frequenting Facebook this week, “Look in on your elderly friends and family . . . oh, wait, I AM one!” probably originated by an OLLI member somewhere in this country.

The irony that OLLI, a program originally devised to prevent senior adults from being isolated, is now strongly recommending this condition is not lost on us. With age comes wisdom, however, and OLLI members have the wisdom to accept and actively promote those activities (and nonactivities) that will keep us safe and healthy.

After briefly mourning the lost opportunity to enjoy the fabulous range of courses OLLI had offered this spring, OLLI members are not taking to their beds. Lifelong learners don’t stop learning when one avenue of education is blocked. From reading those books and magazines that we never seem to have time for to taking some of those great courses that have piqued our interest to online programs and podcasts, many of our members are feeding their hunger for learning.

Before the “great shutdown” OLLI volunteers were already hard at work preparing for the fall term. Now, in addition to creating a new menu of offerings, those same volunteers are working with our presenters to try to reschedule their cancelled Spring courses to a date in the Fall term.

OLLI courses are the end result of a tremendous volunteer effort by a team known as the curriculum committee. Each of our four learning sites has its own curriculum committee; in Concord that committee comprises a chairman and eight other volunteers, supported by one paid staff member. The process begins with ideas and brainstorming. Committee members offer topics and presenters that they believe will interest OLLI members. They also review evaluations of courses already offered to discover courses which deserve a repeat offering.

Once the list is compiled, the team identifies potential sources and contacts to turn the topics into courses. They split the list and each person begins the process of calling and emailing to lay out requests. Amazingly, the number of subject matter experts who are willing to share their expertise on a completely volunteer basis (read this as unpaid) seems almost unlimited. OLLI courses range from a single two-hour session to multi-week sessions. These experts sometimes have prepared presentations they offer to public groups, but more often they do research, develop a lesson plan and handouts and produce a new and creative course offering just for OLLI.

The nitty-gritty details of moving from rough ideas to a polished catalog, both print and online, involves the volunteers doing hours and hours of communication with presenters, scheduling both the people and the rooms, writing and editing course descriptions and biographies. From there, the Granite State College marketing staff works with OLLI to produce the print catalog.

Fortunately there is nothing in that entire process which requires in-person meetings. So the work of preparing for the fall term is actively underway uninterrupted. While we all hope for resumption of OLLI activities before the end of our spring term in June, we are fully committed to being prepared for fall term starting in August. Fingers crossed!




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