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Lifelong Learning Can Lead to Lifelong Wellness

Education doesn’t have an end date. In fact, it shouldn’t. And while education in the formal sense can be limited to an institutional understanding of the word, lifelong learning is expansive and flexible. Learning to paint with acrylics, analyzing films from the 20th century, discovering an unknown event from history, or how to use photoshop are all forms of education—and are fun! There’s no limit to what and how you can learn, and lifelong learning can be experienced in or out of the classroom.  

Lifelong learning is a privilege that does not have to be cut off at a certain age. Studies have shown that learning, particularly learning new skills, improves cognitive function, especially in aging populations and just as we care for our bodies as we age, we need to care for our minds. Anything that flexes the brain will boast extraordinary benefits to our wellbeing.  

Individuals over 50 who are looking for an opportunity to expand their horizons, learn in an engaging environment, and meet new friends will find it at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers University (OLLI-RU). We offer noncredit education that is stimulating, friendly, and informal–there are no tests and no grades! Students will be part of a learning community that is full of diversity, insight, wisdom, intellectual and cultural stimulation, and friendship. We offer a variety of affordable classes in multiple locations—New Brunswick, Freehold, and virtually– and run four sessions per year. 

Our instructors are skilled in their field, some having PhD degrees or decades-long experience working in what they’re teaching. For example, Judge Barnett Hoffman, who is currently teaching the popular “Dateline: Criminal Cases of Middlesex County” class has served as judge for twenty years. Another favored class, the “Poetry Workshop”, is taught by Maxine Susman who has published six chapbooks and holds a PhD in English from Cornell University. And the accolades don’t end there! OLLI-RU consistently evaluates its courses and instructors in order to present the best learning opportunities for our students. Our members of the Advisory Council are active members in the OLLI-RU community, some having been with the lifelong learning program since its conception at Rutgers University. 

OLLI-RU is one of the 125 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes across the nation. More than 170,000 people nationwide are members of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes and here at Rutgers University, OLLI-RU continues to promote the nationwide philosophy of catering to the meet the needs and interests of our community. Our close-knit staff dedicate their time to making sure that the program runs smoothly—from hiring instructors to the registration process. We love talking with the OLLI-RU community and are available to assist participants with any questions or feedback they may have. 

Learning for the sake of learning is not the only benefit of participating in a class. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that that nearly one fourth of people 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated and numerous health risks accompany it. This is a significant issue that can be addressed through community-based activities. A benefit of lifelong learning, particularly in the classroom, is aiding in the creation of a community. Those with similar interests can meet like-minded people while learning something new. Many students at OLLI-RU have formed friendships while taking classes such as “Yoga for Comfort and Relaxation”, “Buddhist Art of South and Southeast Asia”, and “The 50s: Rock Pioneers. OLLI-RU” also hosts one-day classes such as “Classic Italian Cheeses and their Ancient Roman Influences” and “The Art of Forest Bathing”. 

Lifelong learning is an enjoyable way to learn something new, take care of your health, and make new friends while building community. Opportunities for the aging population to learn are endless and thanks to OLLI-RU, are easy to access. Now is the best time to pick up a paintbrush, turn on your computer, open a book, and join a class to explore new terrains that are waiting for you! Find more information on our website: olliru.rutgers.edu