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‘Back-to-school’ approaches for older students

  • Good discussion among peers is a cherished OLLI attribute. —Courtesy of Jacki Fogarty

  • A visit to Live and Let Live Farm was one of OLLI’s popular field trips. Courtesy of Jacki Fogarty

For the Monitor
Published: 8/5/2019 10:44:18 AM

All the kids are in the back-to-school countdown mode. The little kids are dreading the end of summer, but we, the senior “kids” of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Granite State College can’t wait to be back in the classroom. And step one to making that happen for the upcoming fall term is Monday: Registration Day.

It’s the day when more than half of the OLLI membership of 1,400 sits poised over their computers waiting for the big hand to hit the 12. At 9 a.m. sharp, the website will open and registration will begin. With more than 220 courses from which to choose, there are always a few courses, or presenters, that are so popular they will fill within the first 30 minutes. It is not uncommon to register more than 1,500 enrollments by noon of the first day.

OLLI at Granite State College is a learning organization for adults age 50 and older. Although OLLI is affiliated with Granite State College, the courses are developed and instructors are recruited by volunteer committees, not by the college.

“Learning for the fun of it” is OLLI’s motto and the curriculum committees ensure there are the variety and quality of courses critical to both the learning and the fun.

The courses are all non-credit and range from single sessions to eight-week sessions, generally at two hours per session. No homework, no tests, no prerequisites, but lots of learning – all for the fun of it. Most classroom courses are at the local Granite State College campus and quite a few courses involve visiting venues around the greater Concord area or enjoying learning about nature on hikes or other outdoor experiences.

As always, history courses dominate the offerings with 13, three of which feature field trips as part of the course: the Clark Museum, The Fells Historic Estate and the North East Motor Sports Museum. The other 10, presented at the Granite State College campus on Hall Street include three which highlight the role of women in American history, a two-part class on the Freedom Trail and, of local historical interest, Concord Coaches, the Cornish Colony and New Hampshire’s roadside markers.

Responding to member requests, Concord OLLI will offer nine hands-on creative arts courses including several painting classes, woodblock prints, weaving, soap-making and holiday card-making. The month of October will see three other arts courses, including a tour of the art in the State House, a tour of the Kimball Jenkins Estate and a classroom-based course on the life of Tasha Tudor.

Legal, military and political topics are well-represented in the fall term. An overview of the Supreme Court, exploration of our federal and state judicial systems and how they interact, a tour of the new Merrimack County Superior Court, part three of the popular CSI NH series which is on cyber crimes and, over a brown-bag lunch, a discussion of the incarceration of women. The Civil War and Vietnam will cover military history and politics will delve into immigration, the John McCain presidential run, “Picking the President in 2020,” “Holding Your Elected Officials Accountable” and commentary about the past and present New Hampshire primaries by Arnie Arnesen, Dean Spiliotes and Jeff Feingold.

Performing arts courses begin in August with a look at Greek drama and follow in September with a visit to the brand new Bank of N.H. Stage Theatre. “Folk Dancing Around the World,” the “Roots and Routes of Jewish Humor,” “Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew” and two film classes – one on westerns and one covering Cary Grant’s career round out performing arts class offerings. A course on the works of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway and Bob Dylan’s early love songs complete the humanities.

Nature and natural science courses are available on the topics of brook trout, winter birds, ticks, weather, night visitors to a tree farm, insects, raptors, and there are five field trips: Merrimack River Flood Plain and Conservation Center, McLane Audubon Center, Kennard Trailhead and Nottingcook Forest plus a tour of the Lewis Farm.

The remaining courses for the term are quite varied, from “Love and Sex in Ancient Israel” to “Understanding Cremation,” from “Word 2016 for Windows” to “Tai Chi,” “Finance/Taxation,” “Retirement Living Options,” “Optical Wonders in the Sky,” “Your Family Tree,” “Palestine and its Children,” “Hiking in Chile and Argentina,” “Shaker Lands & Gardens,” “Oh, My Aching Knees,” “Bicycling,” “Spanish for Travelers” and studies of “Planet Earth.”

The 77 courses offered in the greater Concord area are supplemented by another 150 courses offered in Manchester, the greater Seacoast area and Conway. All courses are open to members and nonmembers with members receiving a discount. And, besides courses, OLLI offers its members several free benefits including “special interest groups” such as a book club, hiking club, garden club and quilting club. Social events such as game days and Mug ‘n’ Muffins give members a chance to get together informally and enjoy each other’s company.

Finally, one of the most important benefits of OLLI, in pursuit of healthy aging, is the ability to volunteer in the organization. From committee work to working on events to writing articles (like this) to teaching classes, there are opportunities for retired members to continue to use their skills and to learn new ones.

Information about OLLI, its courses and membership can be found on the OLLI website, or by calling the OLLI office at 513-1377. Or, pick up a catalog at local libraries, senior centers and many entertainment venues.

(Jackie Fogarty is a member of OLLI.)

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