Recently I finished taking two "senior" classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute here in Denver. While this was by no means my first experience in learning or education in retirement, it was the first time I became involved with this particular system.
As some readers may remember, in Texas I took college credits through the local college system. I was not sure if I wanted to pursue an actual art degree, so I took both classes I liked and that were advanced, and some basic requirement classes (Texas government, since I was living in Texas). I enjoyed those classes for a variety of reasons. Academically, they were challenging, even those art classes that were in my area of expertise. I am a firm believer that youth keeps us young, and as such usually go out of my way to surround myself with people of all ages. Rather than be embarrassed at being the oldster in the group of college kids, I embraced it. Unfortunately, being me, I went at the thing full throttle, and after two semesters of eighteen hours of credit courses I realized I did not want to stretch myself quite that much during this time of retirement.
I also have had the full experience of online classes through Coursera and various other online sources. While I found almost all of these courses fun and challenging, I realized that I was missing the human classroom interaction. For me at least the online chat room just was not the same!
Enter OLLI, or the Osher Lifelong Learning Center. I decided that this might be exactly what I was looking for at this time of my life. Classes varied in how much reading and or "homework' there was. There were classes on about fifty different topics. I also realized that Osher was a community as well. While I registered late and was lucky to find any courses (more about that below), I soon was invited to a summer picnic, a Denver walking tour, and many other activities outside the basic classroom. Also, at least once a week, there was a lunch speaker.
All in all I enjoyed my classes, even though one of said classes was not the right fit for me. My first class was Tuesday morning and it was a "great decisions class". Class involved reading some articles each week, watching a video on a variety of topics from the refugee crisis to Russia's place in the world, and having a fairly rousing discussion afterwards (a discussion that was mighty civil considering the obvious fact that the attendees ranged from my left wing hippy self to at least one fellow to the right of John Birch). I thoroughly enjoyed this one, from the readings to the discussions.
The second class I took was a memoir writing class. Since I'm involved in some halfway serious family writing (journaling based on old pictures) and had never actually taken a writing class, I figured this might be a good fit. While the instructor was wonderful, this was not for me. This particular class was directed at people who wanted to write memoirs, literally. In addition to writing practice, the instructor spent a fair amount of time talking about turning writing family memoirs in book form. While I am writing a book, my book is not a memoir and as such I kind of felt out of place in this class and with the assignments. Also, everyone was expected to write about things such as sad or painful events and then share with the class. THAT is so not me. While I would like to find a writing group at some point, this class was not in the direction I wanted to go.
I did meet many new folks in class, so that made both classes a win on one level. More importantly, I enjoyed both classes and the experience enough that I will repeat the experience in the winter (I travel in the spring). I missed the early registration, but have sent in my check, with my goal to sign up for two classes. This past fall, I took two classes on the same day, staying for lunch and walking around the building in between classes. This time my desired classes (Dealing with Income Equality, and What Happened to Community) are on different days. However, classes are less than fifteen minutes away. So on one morning and one afternoon (not the same days), I will be off to the church that serves as the classroom center for Osher learning.
I would say that my first experience with the Osher center was extremely positive. I can only hope I enjoy my winter classes as at least as much as the ones I took this past fall, and that I made better class choices. Either way, being challenged mentally is an important part of retirement, and learning while interacting with others is a great way to constantly keep that mentality in high gear.
And so it goes, this Wednesday in Retirement