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A spirit that is not afraid

Osher Lifelong Learning Institue provides further education for retirees

<p>&nbsp;A group of OLLI members pay close attention as they learn about fossils in last fall's Paleontology class. &nbsp;</p>

 A group of OLLI members pay close attention as they learn about fossils in last fall's Paleontology class.  

During retirement, many adults may find themselves looking for something further to do with their free time. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute provides semi-retired and retired adults over 50 an opportunity to take a multitude of courses offered at Auburn.

According to Auburn's University Outreach website, OLLI has over 125 organizations spanning across all 50 states, as well as District Columbia — each one associated with its respective university or college.

In Auburn, OLLI is located with the Outreach Center, directed by Scott Bishop. Bishop served as interim director in April 2019 and became director in March 2020 before the pandemic. As OLLI serves a more vulnerable population, the organization had to get creative in how to offer their classes.

Bishop explained that they began offering online classes that spring, continuing their quarter semester system. This fall, online, hybrid and in-person classes will all be offered with several-outdoor oriented classes.

Retired adults in the community are able to take non-credit classes as members of OLLI and emphasize Auburn's intent to support lifelong learning.

Although OLLI is known for providing further educational opportunities for retired adults, Bishop explains how it provides much more than that.

"I personally know several people who have lived in Auburn and had careers, when they retire they suddenly have time on their hands," Bishop said. "Even though they have connections, OLLI fills a gap that allows them to be physically and intellectually engaged." 

Members have plenty of volunteer opportunities as well, within OLLI itself, or in the Auburn community. For example, retired professors teaching classes, or volunteer tour guides for the local art museum.

Bishop stated the importance of having a program like OLLI allowing for continual enrichment and intellectually stimulating activities. 

"People are retiring in their mid-60s, but we live long in this culture [OLLI] is a way to enrich and enhance their lives — it's an extension of learning in 'old age,'" Bishop said. 

Last fall, OLLI offered a focus called Wild Place in Alabama. The program brought in a city arborist to teach a class titled 'The Secret Life of Trees,' and a retired professor taught a class on paleontology. Members could also learn about the legal steps required to get wilderness areas protected.

The organization also offered a once-a-week lecture focused on nature and wildlife in Alabama, a week after classes ended. A group of members then went to the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center, located in Andalusia. Activities included learning about flora and fauna, mediation and drawing.

"Remember when school was fun? It's like that, all over again," Bishop said. 

With new time on their hands, OLLI gives opportunities to retired adults that are not always easy to come by. Bishop said between the classes, outdoor trips, volunteerism and leadership opportunities, there's something for everyone.

"We like to say that OLLI is where curiosity never retires," Bishop said. 

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