Elderly eager to expand education

Although it may be hard for traditional college students to believe, the longing to gain more knowledge never truly goes away for some people.

More than 1,000 retirees from the area have chosen to continue their educational journeys as part of Bradley’s not-for-profit, volunteer-driven organization called Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). There are only two requirements to join: be at least 50 years old and have a desire to learn.

Lifelong learning programs are not entirely new to Bradley. In 1994, the Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILR) was established. In 2008, OLLI became possible due to a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Through two separate $1 million gifts from the foundation; OLLI is a highly distinct Osher program.

OLLI programing includes classes, study groups, learning trips, lectures and cinema events. They are all non-credit and OLLI members pay $95 for classes per season and $45 for eight weeks of 2-hour study group sessions.

OLLI offers 60 classes in the spring and fall and 30 classes in January. Classes are held for four consecutive Wednesdays in October and April, plus four consecutive days the second week of January. Senior citizens register for a total of four classes each session they participate.

“OLLI members have a desire to stay vital and active as they reach and enjoy retirement,” Michelle Riggio, assistant director of OLLI, said. “One way to do that is to keep learning.”

Additionally, local trips in Central Illinois that usually include a behind-the-scene look at businesses are $25, and the lectures are free. The cost for cinema events varies, but “Free Flicks” are funded by member donations.

Retirees look to learn more throughout the years and Bradley’s OLLI program helps them do so through their various classes, field trips and lectures.