Asher Lifelong Learning Institute: ‘Join Classes, Stay For Friends’ | Silver linings

The voluntary model of the Asher Lifelong Learning Institute is “for pure enjoyment of learning”.

The list of Dotti Nelson’s upcoming classes at OLLI is varied and extensive.

“The list is long. I usually get a lot of them, ”said the 79-year-old Fremont resident.

This semester, she enrolled in classes on midterm elections, film, an introduction to Thai, a lesson by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a class called “Great Decisions”.

“I just finished a class … it was a Zoom class -” Awakening of Wisdom in Compassion. “It was about Buddhism,” he said.

Nelson and other New Hampshire seniors say OLLI – the Asher Institute for Lifelong Learning – offers a wide range of classes for people 50 and older who can be enlightened and educated and have the opportunity to socialize and meet new people.

OLLI is a voluntary study program based on members who are affiliated to colleges and universities such as Dartmouth State College and Granite. The program is aimed at semi-retired and retired people. There are four “study zones” across New Hampshire: the Washington Valley, Manchester, Concord, and the Beach, which have more than 800 members across the state.

There are 125 OLLI programs in the United States, with at least one in all 50 states, according to director Tonyan Desuza. OLLI is funded in part by the Bernard Osher Foundation, membership fees, class fees and other income streams.

Volunteer facilitators can also attend classes and join committees. Some are former teachers and some members are present just because they are passionate about their subject.

“It’s just to enjoy learning,” DeSusa said.

Prior to Nashville, Nelson retired in 2005. She found OLLI in 2006 and while there were other college offers for seniors across the state, she was more attracted to OLLI offers.

She and her husband enjoyed all aspects of OLLI.

“My husband and I started school, and we got everything we wanted. We both joined a number of committees, and we both taught. One of the winners of our history, I think, was a librarian, but he was always interested in history, ”Nelson said.

Classes and trips

Sharon Case, a Manchester resident and OLLI member since 2010, recalled what first attracted her to the program. “I was amazed by the people who were so hospitable and engaged in so many different things.”

She noted only a few examples of classroom suggestions.

“Let me give you topics: art and the humanities, history, personal enrichment, science and technology, social sciences, community studies, as well as external stories in these categories,” Case said.

Lessons on the history of New Hampshire are often popular and focus on the history of Mount Washington Valley, the history of Native Americans in New Hampshire, and the presidential election.

Also include trips to Odyssey State Park in Ray, Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, National Wildlife Sanctuary in Great Bay, crafts and art classes, the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally or just a day trip to places like the Kennedy Library in Boston. are available. .

No homework, no exams

One of OLLI’s biggest selling points is that there are no exams, no credits, no degrees, and no homework, but that doesn’t mean there are no incentive interviews or award-winning achievements.

“They always have an educational component. We do spring poultry and learn about the birds in the area, or they visit a specific historical location. Or they go for a walk to study the water, ”said DeSusa.

“Not only do we do education, which is our main task, as you can tell, but we have a lot of social activities. And it really brings people together, ”Case said.

Nelson said that as an undergraduate student in electrical engineering in the Northeast, the chances of taking classes outside of his major are not high.

“As students, we didn’t have elective classes. (OLLI) had kayaking and touring and snowboarding and touring local museums. It was the most amazing holiday I could have chosen from, ”Nelson said.

Case was also surprised by the OLLI option.

“Suddenly I could take all the classes I wanted, things like history, politics, art, religion and things that were interesting, so I really liked OLLI – and there was no pressure,” he said.

Join the community

She noted that OLLI could help in the fight against divorce.

“It’s just one of the biggest challenges for adults,” he said. And we consider ourselves a society. It’s a community of like-minded people who are curious about the world around them, ”Case said.

He wants to remove the stigma of being an “adult citizen”.

“When you say‘ adult ’something, people think of the little old women sitting in the rocking chair who don’t even read the newspaper. Our members are far from that. They are very active, both physically and mentally. Of course, with age, we pay more attention to our health. But we are very, very active, ”Case said.

There are no quizzes or tests in OLLI and no homework. It’s more about holding roundtable discussions with others who want to learn more.

Learning opportunities too

Student Mike Baker, who attends classes and also teaches literature at OLLI, said he and his wife are also looking for opportunities to advance their education. Baker said OLLI’s access forced him and his wife to try. Previously from Maine and newlyweds in Manchester, the couple discovered that OLLI was a great way to make new friends and it was nearby.

“There are no documents. There are no quizzes, or exams, or whatever you have. It’s just learning to enjoy. And that can’t be more ideal, ”Baker said.

Baker’s courses run anywhere from three to five sessions and can cover, for example, the short stories of Ernest Hemingway. Students receive material in advance and then discuss topics in class or in the Zoom.

“There have been lessons about migration and our position on migration. I took classes in elementary, elementary New Hampshire, which are excellent. The people who were leading here are the authorities on different topics that they are doing. “

She is looking forward to the upcoming lesson on how to improve her photography skills.

“There’s just a wide range,” he said.

Nelson, Baker and Case all chanted the school’s motto: “Join the classes, stay for friends”.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to meet very interesting and curious people like us. As a result of this program, we made some close friends, ”Baker said.

There’s even a lunch program called “Name the Lunch and Learn”.

“We met in groups for lunch and the conversation was always interesting and inspiring,” Baker said.

“I met people from all walks of life, such as teachers, entrepreneurs, scientists, doctors, dentists, nurses and politicians. We are still excited about everything that has happened and have not sat down and said “I’m retired”. So, we made a lot of really, really good friends, ”Nelson said.

Try something new

Baker prefers to go to classes where he never gets another chance, like a bee.

“There is no way on earth that my formal education will allow me to do that. But now, with such a program, it was an incentive class. I really, really enjoyed it, ”he said.

Baker, who taught literature in high school and college, says the level of wisdom comes with teaching people 50 and older compared to traditional students and graduate students.

“Young people aged 16-18 do not bring much to literature in the end because they have no life experience. But when you have a classroom full of professionals or people who have been in the business world all their lives, they bring a lot of things to it. They weren’t usually there, ”Baker said.

He said people can express their dissenting views more freely in OLLI and, in general, everyone wants the company.

“Each of them is 100 percent ready. Everyone wants to participate in the debate. And most importantly – the teacher’s dream – everyone wants to be there. It just couldn’t be ideal from an educational point of view, ”Baker said.


OLLI has also started offering classes at night and on Saturdays to former retirees who may not have the flexibility of others.

OLLI membership is $ 40 per person for two semesters – fall and spring. Courses can last up to eight weeks and cost $ 20 for the first session and $ 5 for each additional session. Scholarship opportunities are also available. Visit or for more information.

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