Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Op ed: OLLI member gives thanks for UD’s lifelong learning program

I’m giving thanks for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Jean YoukersOLLI member Jean Youkers authored the following op ed which appeared as a guest column in the Sunday News Journal (Nov. 27, 2022) and DelawareOnline.com (Nov. 24, 2022)

I was a kid who liked to go to school, then an adult who seized opportunities to learn new things whenever I had spare time. I always said I’d like to go to school forever and after I retired, I discovered a way to do just that. The answer was Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the popular educational cooperative for individuals over 50, part of the University of Delaware.

 OLLI programs operate in all 50 states, affiliated with 125 colleges and universities. I attend in-person classes at Arsht Hall in Wilmington. Downstate classes are held in Ocean View, Lewes, and Dover, with Zoom classes available to members throughout Delaware and beyond.

Our wonderful program is powered by enthusiastic and knowledgeable all-volunteer instructors and other volunteers, supported by a small but tireless and dynamic staff. 

Delaware’s OLLI program has one of the most extensive rosters of offerings in the country, including courses in literature, technology, history, the arts, humanities, science, and languages. There are instrumental and vocal music groups, extracurricular activities, and special events. Each semester, I struggle to decide what to select from so many enticing options.

In my six years of membership, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed new challenges — from learning to stand on one foot and be quiet as I learned the moves in Beginning Tai Chi to memorizing a Shakespeare sonnet and writing my own poems in poetry classes. I learned new techniques in Word, Excel and Desktop Publisher. Teaching me anything related to technology is not an easy task, but each instructor was incredibly patient, taking the time to explain things as often as necessary. I’ve taken history and current events courses in lecture format, along with interactive art appreciation classes. 

Other experiences ranged from serious discussions on soulfulness to laughing out loud at funny movies. This year, I’m learning how to make watercolor paintings without using too much or too little paint, unraveling mysteries of brushes, paper, and other creative implements. I’ve discussed books in literature classes, and enjoyed listening to performances by OLLI’s choruses, bands and other musical ensembles.

They even let me teach. I’ve taught summer courses in fiction writing and humor writing, including in summer of 2021 when classes were held outdoors as we regrouped from the pandemic shutdown. Most instructors say that they, themselves, learn new things from research and preparation for the classes they teach. Instructors and students alike are at OLLI voluntarily, seeking knowledge in a fun environment where there are no tests or grades.

The program meets the needs of people who are passionate about learning and I’m thankful to be part of it. OLLI provides stimulation, structure, challenges, and socialization. We are never bored. For information on how to join us in our quest for knowledge, please visit olli.udel.edu.

Jean Youkers is a Delaware writer and volunteers as an OLLI instructor, regularly teaching writing classes.