Gwen Garvey cannot wait until the school starts. She does not know how many lessons she will follow or which subjects she will study, but she still cannot wait. As soon as the catalog comes out, she decides. And if history repeats itself, it will probably follow different lessons.
Garvey, 75, lives in the Beaufort, South Carolina region, and she is one of the primary students of her local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute – known by veterans as OLLI. It is a national program, now offered at 124 locations, for people aged 50 and over. All programs & # 39; s are affiliated with universities. The Bernard Osher Foundation, founded by the generous philanthropist, awards grants to the & # 39; s programs.
"I follow 29 or 30 lessons per semester," says Garvey. It all started when her old friend Kathleen Jordan, who is a member of the curriculum committee of the Beaufort OLLI program at the University of South Carolina, suggested that it would be a good activity after the death of Garvey's husband, Jim , six years ago. [1
"People came in with bags of dirt and they looked like they were taking their poop bag," says Garvey. Always a good sport, she remained, although she was dirtless. "I learned over several layers that there are fossils in our soil, that it is the most sand and that it doesn't matter what you plant that you won't get much to grow." With all this new knowledge in her head, Garvey says, "I always have something to contribute when I go to a cocktail party."
Every state, like the District of Columbia, has at least one OLLI program, says David Blazevich, the senior program director at the Bernard Osher Foundation. "People join in for the pleasure of learning and discovering," Blazevich says, "but we also want them to find community. There are no educational requirements, no tests, no grades."
Each program develops its own curriculum on a local level, and the offer varies from art, music, history, science, technology, current affairs, genealogy, writing courses, performance groups and even bands.
Bernard Osher is a poster boy for lifelong learning. "Mr Osher is now 91 and doing independent study, "says Blazevich. He started playing the piano at the age of 80. He started fly fishing.
The joy of volunteering
Jordan, from the Beaufort program, can also not wait for the school year to start, she has volunteered for the past 12 years and works full-time in a full-time job, one of her roles is finding teachers – who are unpaid – no problem, she says. so far, "our teachers include rocket scientists, artists, business leaders, ecology experts," and others, she says. "We have an instructor who was a marine biologist and also a Cuban retreat when he was 7 years old."
That would be Juan Carlos Jimenez, who is proud to say that his lessons are full on the day they are posted. Among his offer is a course on smoking cigars. "Most of my students are women," he says. "You'd be surprised how many women smoke cigars." He tells them how cigars are made and what to look out for when buying them. Although no instructor pays, there is a payback period. Jimenez and his wife run Tacaron, a boutique vendor of cigars, wine and Cuban coffee.
The man from Jordan, Jim, has published three books on history and architecture in the area and gives lessons on his subjects, with signing sessions on the sessions.
Offer varies in different locations, but the Beaufort program offers around 400 courses in winter and spring, Jordan says, and another 50 in the summer. "Most are one session, usually only a few hours, and always with a Q and A," Jordan says. With other OLLI & # 39; s, however, the lessons are longer, perhaps 8 weeks a week.
The annual membership fees also vary. At the Beaufort OLLI it is $ 40; students can pay $ 120 per term for unlimited lessons depending on the availability of seats or pay as they go, that's $ 10-20 per class, depending on the season and class. Jordan estimates around 1500 members in the Beaufort program.
If Gwen Garvey has anything to do with it, those numbers will grow. As she follows her routine, including a daily morning swim, she says: & I tell everyone about the lessons. Really, I should have a business card made up. "
And it would say? & # 39; Gwen Garvey. Let me tell you about OLLI. ”
Your turn: Wondering if your area has an OLLI? The list is here.
If you had the opportunity, what subject would you teach your ? Let us know in the comments!