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Lifelong Learning

98,000 and counting: Lifelong institutes welcome mature students

In 1997, Rabbi Harry Sky founded one of the very first programs for students who were age 50 and over at the University of Southern Maine, and now that initiative - along with more than 100 others in universities and colleges across the country - have become part of the wildly popular Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). 

Bernard Osher, the program's namesake, helped promote the idea nationally. He was emblematic of the idea - taking piano lessons at age 80 - and believed that learning was a process that should continue throughout life.

So far, around 98,000 students have taken classes at the OLLIs and that number is expected to grow rapidly as members of the baby boomer generation retire and they look back to the classroom as a way to continually broaden their horizons.

In Maine alone there are 5,000 students over the age of 65 who are taking classes again, according to The Portland Press Herald. At the University of Southern Maine, there are 1,400 students at the lifelong learning institute and they get to choose from any of 140 courses offered annually.

One of the most appealing features about the classes is that the teachers have varied and interesting professional backgrounds. "A forensic accountant teaches a great course in the history of jazz, a retired insurance executive teaches the work of classic poets," the Press Herald reports.

A number of Del Webb retirement communities are partnered with OLLI programs. At Sun City Mesquite, residents have access to the Osher Lifelong Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a facility that offers a flexible schedule sure to accommodate the needs of anyone looking to study something new. 

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