Back To School

OLLI Fall Term

OLLI Fall Term

This is the time of year when kids start back to school. Parents are shopping for supplies, new clothes and looking at schedules as they prepare their children for another school term. The scent of fall coupled with the excitement of a new beginning is in the air. When I honed my wish list for retirement activities, this yearly ritual of returning to academia never crossed my mind. Oh, I engaged in the idea of taking a painting class or two. However, the thought of preparing for an entire academic year on a college campus was not even on my radar.

Yet, here I am feeling the kind of excitement I felt as a kid as I prepare for my third year at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) ( at Furman University. Registration began last week. Catalogs appeared online and in mailboxes in the weeks before that, making me ditzy with anticipation. As I leafed through the catalog, marking off what interested me, I wondered all over again at the breadth and depth of the offerings — about one hundred courses for fall term alone. During the past two years I’ve enjoyed classes in various arts, writing, religion, aging well, gardening, history and there is more, so much more.

Every state in the US has at least one OLLI. In other countries, look for University of the Third Age (U3A) ( In the event you don’t find one near you, check out your local colleges for adult learning opportunities and/or talk to the leaders about starting a program geared toward retired and semi-retired people. There is much to be gained by participating in college life.

For example, a group of students from my last writing course are continuing to meet informally in a conference room on campus. We write, meet, read our stories out loud to each other and offer gentle critiques. Much of what is written is memoir requiring a certain amount of trust among the group. As a result we have connected on a level beyond the casual acquaintances of a classroom environment. Our camaraderie is solidified in the care of each others memories.

Other friends in my circle outside of OLLI have joined me (and Martin) on campus. We’ve taken classes together or gone our separate ways coming together after class at the campus cafeteria. Often we’re joined by other OLLI students, widening our circle, engagement with others and topics of conversation. And, the cafeteria food is as diverse as the topics. From huge steel cooking drums serving up Indian, Mexican or Chinese dishes to salad and soup bar to pizza, salmon or baked chicken, the fare is everything and anything you could want. Freshly flavored waters like pineapple-sage are there for the water-holics like myself and the array of desserts are tempting. For $5 we can enjoy an amazing meal, sitting there for as long as we want, among the buzzing hive of late-teens and twenty somethings. It’s energizing.

Access to the university library opens up another vista with books, magazines, newspapers and dvd’s for borrowing or sitting in a comfortable chair and enjoying on campus. Don’t have a computer? Need wi-fi for your laptop or smartphone? You can get it here. Do you have an interest in history? The archives are substantial. Art? The art library is stunning. Want the latest fiction or non-fiction book? It just came in and is waiting for you on shelves displaying the latest additions to the library. Additionally, tickets to cultural events on campus are discounted and sometime even free to OLLI members — lectures, plays and concerts for your enjoyment.

Every college or university has its own price list for all of this. At Furman my cost for this year’s membership is $50. Friday Bonus Events offered by OLLI are free, although art classes or tours requiring transportation will have an added fee. There are also free Tuesday Lunch and Learns where you bring your lunch to eat while listening to a lecture on various issues. Then, there are Special Interest Groups (SIG) — knitting, book clubs, photography, travel, wood carving, bridge, chess, man jongg and even an Out and About Singles SIG and more. Courses paid for individually are $55, but the cost can be reduced by purchasing a package of courses at the beginning of the year. The cost of a six course package to be used over three terms is $240; nine course package $315; and a fifteen course package $375. One final note — although there are four employees, most of this is run by OLLI member volunteers and with 2,000 members last year, there is plenty of opportunity to volunteer.

As mentioned, courses are varied and fun. There are no grades! In order to get the most out of a course, it’s a good idea to do the reading and assignments, if there are any. However, it is not required. Classes at Furman OLLI start on September 12. A back to campus reception and new member orientation is September 8. And, like a kid again, I’m filled with anticipation.

If you are running out of steam after retiring, feeling at loose ends, want to feel energized, want to try something new, want to keep learning or want to make more friends, find a college campus!

13 comments on “Back To School

  1. We just took an OLLI field trip to ride an antique coal-powered steam locomotive in nearby West Virginia. Fun day!


  2. Pingback: Charli Learns about OLLI- « The Golden Age of Charli

  3. Yes, and I’m joining the crowds at Furman OLLIE this year…wonderful concept …here & there…Asheville is home to another Life Long Learning Center at Asheville…check it out ….Adelante!


  4. Kathy, Like you, I didn’t expect to be going back to school in retirement, but it turns out to be my most exciting and gratifying retirement activity. Maine’s Senior Colleges were one of the models the Osher Foundation used in setting up OLLI. My local Senior College doesn’t have as rich an array of courses as yours, but our yearly membership is also only half as much ($25). Yesterday, I got my class list for the course I’ll be teaching (US Women’s History), and I’ll also be taking a course on investing (my second choice, when I couldn’t get into the Tai Chi class). I, too, love the broad range of learning opportunities.


  5. Kathy,
    Thank you for your reminder about OLLI. I’m pretty sure I must have learned about it from one of your prior postings, but forgot. I’ve checked my local OLLI website, and there are class, workshop and lecture offerings that are calling to me!

    Thank you again, for your BLOG. Keep up the great work. Enjoy your classes!


  6. This is so inspirational. Good luck in the coming school year, keep your pencils sharp and your mind will be even sharper. And have fun, I’m a little jealous.


  7. Here I go again…trying to learn line dancing at OLLI . I am kinder to myself now that I am retired. My brain has a glitch whereby I don’t know my right from my left unless I stop and concentrate. I make it known up front that there is this issue; however, I am determined. Past classes in Tai Chi, acting and improv, and history have all been enjoyable. Public speaking improved considerably in the acting class. Our classes are away from campus so I am not exposed to the energy of the college atmosphere, unfortunately. Enjoyed your post!!


  8. I know you’ve written about it before, but I never paid attention until now. I’m going to look into OLLI when I get to my new home in a metro area later this fall. Thanks!


  9. It’s scary to say… but I’m too busy for OLLI right now! Which is a good thing. I’ll keep it on my future possibilities list for sure. A acquaintance of mine is active in our local one and I’ve looked at the catalogue. Someday I know I will enjoy all it has to offer. I love your last line of the post – and that’s exactly when I plan to jump start into it. P.S. Have you a local MeetUp group? We (hubby and I) have tried that as well to find local connections to people to do things we like to do. So many things, so little time.


    • Yes, Pat there are several MeetUp groups in the area with different themes. I have not joined any of them as my cup already runneth over. I’m hesitant to add anything else to my already full schedule. I do appreciate your bringing this concept up to our other readers. It is a great way to meet people with similar interests or purpose! Thank you. K

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Kathy,

    I’m not near retirement, but I think you’ve got a great blog niche. I’m actually a middle-aged wife/mom/writer/blogger. I think retirees seem to have so much fun! I know it’s not always fun and games…my dad recently had a stroke last May…but he and mom were several states away at an RV park when it happened. He’s doing a lot better, btw.

    I am so glad to see a retiree keeping a blog…Sometimes it seems as though most of my fellow-bloggers are 20-somethings! 😉




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