By Sarah Grossi
Yup, that time has nearly come for me – after a lifetime of work, including a late second career as a high school teacher. And what was terrifying at the beginning of summer (hence, my decision to return to the classroom for one last year) has now become increasingly tangible and inviting as I explore options for filling my days in retirement.
OLLI: Osher LifeLong Learning Institute
Taking classes at OLLI (Osher LifeLong Learning Institute at CSULB) will nicely fulfill part of the answer – putting me into company with a host of accomplished, vibrant and fun-loving seniors who already partake of its diverse opportunities to explore and grow.
First up is exercising the whole body via Yoga with Jean Marie (VanDine, herself a retired teacher) – a welcoming, invigorating yet gently-led class that leaves participants relaxed, refreshed, and basking with a sense of accomplishment. I only wish this class met more than once per week! Jean Marie makes it fun and doable, even for the rare newbie like me. Building posture, core, balance and confidence while taking time to stretch and breathe deeply – and of course, the fun stuff like wearing our favorite crazy t-shirts and hats. Over the summer, this class met Thursdays from 8:45am to 10am, in the Kinesiology Building, also home to the LifeFit Center on campus.
Classes For All!
Of the 60-some offerings OLLI listed for the summer session (July 5 through Aug 29), the other two I selected were Wetlands: Hidden Secrets in Long Beach and Ethics in America, both meeting in-person at the main OLLI building (HSD Room 101). The Wetlands class, taught by Cassandra Davis, manager of volunteer programs for Aquarium of the Pacific, is mostly lecture-style (with plenty of opportunity for asking questions). After four sessions, I have gained fascinating insights into the history of Long Beach development with respect to its wetlands, and valuable tips on identifying the many birds that inhabit these vital waterways.
The Ethics in America class, led by Dr. Daniel Else, provokes lively discussions that tackle the difficult questions posed on issues such as cheating, homelessness, and the criminal justice system. Dr. Else tees up these discussions by playing portions of the Ethics in America series (a 1988 program with prominent panelists including academics, lawyers, doctors, journalists, clergymen, heads of organizations, and even the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia). Although I have yet to contribute (perched discreetly on my seat in the rear), I’ve enjoyed the back-and-forth and thoughtful exchange of views and experiences from my senior classmates.
From their website (https://www.csulb.edu/college-of-health-human-services/osher-lifelong-learning-institute), I learned that OLLI at CSULB actually opened as Senior University in October 1996, with 118 members registered for nine classes in the HSD building. OLLI’s relationship with the Bernard Osher Foundation began with a $1 million Endowment established in 2004 and its official name change in 2006. OLLI’s vision and mission are to celebrate the positive aspects of aging through community, and provide quality educational, social and renewal opportunities for older adults through a broad variety of programs.
You will find variety in its list of class offerings, both in format (classes on Zoom, in-person, and hybrid) and subject (academic, computer, physical fitness, arts, music, personal growth). Just look at the three I chose to get my feet wet! It was so easy and financially painless to enroll – just $20 for half-a-year membership ($40 for the full year from September through the following August) and then $15 per class. And it has brought me community – not only getting to know my classmates and teachers, but through outreach via newsletter (The Sun), email alerts, and special events. Come and join us!