← Back to Blog

How Seniors Can Master Their Hobbies and More with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) Classes

two senior women learn while sharing a computer

“The mind really is a palace. Not only for its perception of symmetry and the outrageously beautiful, but also because it can invent, imagine and, most importantly, it can delve,” said Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison in a 2002 lecture at the University of Toronto. If you enjoy the mind’s capacity to invent, imagine and delve, you’ll likely be delighted by the spectrum of classes offered through Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Furman University. Through OLLI, hundreds of classes bring thousands of senior adult learners together to explore, connect, share and contribute.

The Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Most of us pursue lifelong learning because it feels good to follow our curiosity. Research explains why — our brains release feel-good chemicals like dopamine when we encounter novelty. There are other reasons to indulge the desire to keep learning throughout life:

  • Curiosity and open-mindedness keep you connected. When you sign up for new classes, you’re opening your mind to new information, new friends, and new ways of interacting with or understanding the world. In addition to the social connections you’ll make in your classes, you’re exercising open-mindedness, thereby countering the tendency older adults have to become habit-bound in their activities and thinking. Open-mindedness not only helps you stay connected and current, it has health benefits as well – open-mindedness is associated with better cognitive performance in older adults.
  • Learning boosts memory. A study of older adults found that those who learned new skills — such as quilting or digital photography — experienced improvements in memory.
  • Ongoing learning improves well-being. Participation in community-based, non-formal learning programs supports psychological well-being in older adults, fostering a focus on wellness rather than illness, and supporting successful aging.
  • Cognitively enriching activities decrease the likelihood of showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors who develop their cognitive reserve through the pursuit of hobbies and lifelong learning opportunities are 40% less likely to show clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, even if test results show their brain has suffered Alzheimer’s-related damage.
  • Lifelong learning increases feelings of fulfillment. Following your curiosity gives you the opportunity to be engaged and involved, to reap the reward of personal growth, and to enjoy a sense of purpose. No wonder studies link lifelong learning with a greater sense of self-fulfillment.

A Spectrum of Classes to Pique Your Curiosity

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute classes are designed to give senior adult learners an opportunity to be intellectually engaged, socially connected and physically active. While specific courses change over time, they  offer classes on an array of subjects, including:

  • Arts and Culture. You might choose to explore improv, learn guitar or hone your writing skills.
  • Health and Fitness. Keep body and mind fit as you practice yoga, play pickleball, hike, or learn about living well.
  • History and Politics. Explore the past through classes on colonial South Carolina, Japan, or America’s First Ladies.
  • Practical Arts and Hobbies. Develop your skills in crochet, knitting or  woodcarving, or school your mind in the complexities of chess, sudoku and bridge.
  • Photography. Learn digital photography basics or get more technical with workshops on Adobe Lightroom.
  • Religion and Philosophy. Delve into Judaism, Islam or the Baha’i Faith, or ponder questions such as “Does God Have a Problem?”
  • Science and Math. Expand your mind as you review the future of space exploration, the multiverse or extraterrestrial life.

A Chance to Contribute

There’s more than one way to be part of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. In addition to enjoying their stimulating classes, you can contribute to this flourishing learning community by volunteering as an instructor, office worker or committee member. As a volunteer, you’ll enjoy the sense of well-being and purpose that can arise when you offer your skills to a cause or community you believe in.

Lifelong Learning Opportunities Right Next Door

If you’re interested in the perks of lifelong learning, consider The Woodlands at Furman. Here, in addition to the benefits of maintenance-free living, and the peace of mind that a Life Plan Community offers, you’ll enjoy ongoing opportunities for lifelong learning through our partnership with Furman University, located next door. Contact us to find out more about independent living and the continuum of care at The Woodlands at Furman.