Taking classes with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USF is a lot like being at a dinner party with a group of interesting and experienced people.

Learning and the ability to learn about a subject matter or a new skill never ends, no matter how old you are. Local seniors are lucky to have an outstanding program that provides a variety of classes, workshops, lectures, events and social networking. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of South Florida (OLLI-USF) is that program.

OLLI is a membership-based organization of adults over 50 who come together to learn.

According to Ara Rogers, director of OLLI-USF, there are three good reasons for older people to continue to learn.

Rogers explained, “First, we know we need to challenge our brains by learning, just as we need to challenge our bodies to remain fit. Secondly, the social component is literally a life saver for older adults. Research has shown that loneliness and isolation actually shrink the brain. That is why during the pandemic, OLLI was a lifeline to many folks who were isolating at home. Thirdly, older adults have a lot to offer—lifetimes of practice, experiences and study. And they are eager to share that knowledge, so eager that they volunteer their time and expertise to programs like OLLI.”

During the pandemic, the need to learn and share and be with other like-minded individuals has helped many. OLLI moved classes online.

Rogers said, “We have found that meeting via Zoom provided a lot of benefits to our members and program leaders. So, we intend to keep an online presence for the foreseeable future. We planned about 25 percent of our fall classes to meet in person.”

Rogers said, “We have about 125 classes planned, along with our free Friday Lecture Series, and our vibrant Shared Interest Groups that organize themselves around a topic of mutual interest, like hiking or opera.”

Rogers added, “We offer classes on a wide variety of subjects: some are academic, some are practical or informational, all emphasize enjoyment, hands-on mobile device training, rich discussion groups, practical classes such as in financial planning, exercise and games. Once we get back to in-person, we will be able to hold classes on mahjong or painting and dancing.”

Of the faculty, Rogers said, “Some are retired university faculty, others are community experts. Some have advanced college degrees, a few have zero formal credentials for their subject. Whether acquired by vocation or avocation, we look for evidence that our instructors possess some mastery over their topic and can communicate well with their peers.”

You can see the complete fall catalog by visiting www.usfseniors.org.

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