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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Forming connections with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

OLLI+members+talk+and+laugh+around+a+table.

OLLI members talk and laugh around a table.

Working on college and high school campuses throughout most of my adult life gave me the incentive to join the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program at UMass Boston. I wanted to be where younger people gather and continue to interact with them. The OLLI program provides courses and programming for people 55 years and older. It is a golden opportunity to meet people invested in their continued learning and growth, and to learn and grow with them. 
The array of students, staff and faculty from all walks of life, and from around the world, at UMass Boston enables me to become part of their educational life plan as well. Great learning takes place in the classroom, but it’s the vibrancy of what happens between classes from different generations that I also greatly enjoy.
It was eye-opening to overhear an undergraduate student describe a historical event to a classmate, only to be interrupted by an OLLI student who actually lived through that particular event and exclaimed, “here’s what really happened!” Then, the three of them made plans to talk more about historical events, and an intergenerational discussion group began!
A connection was also made when an OLLI student was able to rent a room in her home to an undergraduate student who lost housing due to a fire in her building. It turned out the two were both from Albania and had some shared connections. In another instance, an OLLI member hired a graduating senior to work in her boutique firm—reminder, not everyone in OLLI is retired—and she was still employed there five years later! 
Personal connections between generations are developed as well. Students who were about the same ages as my daughters experienced some difficulties, and because I wasn’t their mother, they felt they could share some of their issues with me, and I could provide helpful feedback and advice. Likewise, it was so helpful for me to ask their opinions and advice when trying to confront some issues with my own children. They opened my eyes and presented points of view that I had never even considered. My children were impressed that I developed a perspective they had never seen in me. It improved our relationship immeasurably. 
One student who I met and started a friendship with worked in a retirement community and came up to me in shock saying, “these people are sneaking out of their rooms in the middle of the night and going to visit others—and they’re in their 80s!” Yes, old people still have sex! This started a conversation between us about the next stages of life and what to expect. 
I encouraged him to have an informal chat with one ”gentleman walker” and after some trepidation, he did. He said he learned so much about a range of subjects but most importantly was told, “always use protection because even at my age, STDs are rampant in retirement communities.” Their friendship continued even after graduation.
There are lots of interesting OLLI people with extraordinary knowledge walking around campus amongst you that you might find fascinating to meet. If you see one of us on the bus, at the dining hall or in the student lounge, take a chance. Ask what class we attended or where we are going next—you might be surprised at the answers you receive! 
The intergenerational connections and learnings are available to all of us at UMass Boston. Let’s embrace it!