“Use it or lose it” is often used to refer to maintaining your brain function as you age. There’s science behind the idea that your mental faculties are similar to a muscle group that needs a regular workout to stay healthy. One way to flex your brain is through learning a new skill or tackling an unfamiliar topic to study. While it’s no longer unusual these days to hear of senior students graduating with college degrees later in life, taking adult education classes is one way to continue learning.
But you may not realize adult education has morphed beyond learning “Computer Skills 101” at your local library. Adult learning centers now offer an amazing array of courses, often taught by college professors or subject matter experts. The Osher Life Long Learning Institutes, affiliated with local universities throughout the U.S., has one of the most comprehensive learning programs for seniors.
The Life Long Learning program is sponsored by the Bernard Osher Foundation, founded in 1977 by Osher with the goal “to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts.” Beginning in 2001, the Foundation gave an endowment grant to the University of Southern Maine to extend its education programs, first called “Senior College.” The program has grown to 116 lifelong learning programs with at least one grantee in each state, offering non-credit educational programs specifically developed for adults 50 and older.
The curriculum at each Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI) varies by university affiliation, but a look at the courses offered at OLLI at the University of North Carolina Ashville provides a typical sampling. This summer’s choices include:
- “Maestro 101: The Life and Work of an American Symphony Conductor”
- “American Women and the Paradox of Change: Rosie the Riveter, June Cleaver and The Feminine Mystique”
- “Art from Recycled Paper”
- “Food in Film”
While your local adult learning center may not have quite the diversity of an OLLI program, check out the course offerings and enroll and explore new territory to flex your brain.