Miami-Dade County

Columnist: Seniors can learn, teach classes through UM program

Let me start by wishing a Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads in our community. Hope you have a great day with your children and grandchildren.

A couple of months ago, I did a crime-prevention presentation to a wonderful group of seniors who were so much fun. I always learn as much from them as they learn from me. This was the first time I had visited this group of retirees and was so impressed with what they are doing that I asked them to share some information about what they do, in case you are interested in joining them. Here is their letter:

Dear Carmen:

Thank you again for alerting us to some of the dangers to our personal safety when you visited the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Many of us now put rubber bands around our wallets to discourage theft, put pieces of aluminum foil over our credit cards to prevent skimmers from copying the numbers, and avoid talking on the phone while pumping gas.

You asked about how we began and our focus. OLLI at the University of Miami began in 1984 to provide an outlet for the creative use of the experience and talents of retired people in the cultural setting of a university. We began as the IRP (Institute for Retired Professionals) and changed our name to OLLI when we received a grant from the Osher Foundation. The requirement was to reach out to people 50 and older who enjoy learning and who want to continue doing so in life’s “third stage”. Often, when you talk to someone you haven’t seen for a while, the conversation invariably includes the question “What are you doing these days?” OLLI members are enjoying learning and enriching their lives.

Learning something new in a relaxed, friendly environment that affords social contacts with people who share many of your interests solves the problem of “what can I do today that is worthwhile and gets me out of the house?” This year is the 30th year the University of Miami has sponsored a lifelong learning center. Some of our members have homes in other parts of the country, but they join classes when they come to Miami for part of the year.

Membership in OLLI is open to those who enjoy learning, even if they have not been part of a formal academic environment for many years. Classes such as art, music, history, and languages, for example, are designed to foster creativity and spark curiosity. We “grow” older and this next life experience can be very rewarding. Lifelong learning, the current buzzword in adult education, recognizes that everyone has the ability to learn something new: age is not a barrier to learning. It’s no longer “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It’s “what’s next?” The newest discoveries about brain science have shown how the process of learning makes changes in the brain by forming new connections between the cells.

Irene Colsky, University of Miami, 305-284-6554

I want to say thank you to the many readers that loved last week column regarding the Guardian ad Litem program and plan to become one. Yes one person can make a difference in a child’s life. Thank you!