Guest: What options are available for older adults wanting to be lifelong learners?

Lifelong learning is essential for older adults. Here in Oklahoma, there are some opportunities for those 50 and older to further their education and life experience.
Lifelong learning is essential for older adults. Here in Oklahoma, there are some opportunities for those 50 and older to further their education and life experience.

I encourage everyone to seek the gift of learning and growing all of their days. I firmly believe that we never “arrive” at some pinnacle of learning and understanding, but instead, we are to be lifelong learners at any age. The wise civil rights activist, Mahatma Gandhi said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

This journey of being a lifelong learner may look different for each of us; as such, I will never suggest that someone must follow a specific path to gain that experience. However, I want to shed light on some wonderful learning options and opportunities for mature adults who might think their time in education had come to a close years ago.

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Being a lifelong learner comes with many proven benefits. According to a blog in “Family Matters: In-Home Care,” there are four benefits of lifelong learning for seniors and older adults. It listed that it improves cognitive health, increases positive emotions, helps promote social connection and keeps activity levels up. While it’s clear lifelong learning is essential for older adults, many may wonder how to facilitate it. Family Matters recommends cooking new recipes, planting a garden or even engaging in working with new technology to open the door to these benefits. Some seniors may want to be more involved socially and with more critical thinking, and you are not alone. “TheSeniorList” found that more than 20 million seniors are interested in enrolling in academic courses.

Here in Oklahoma, there are some opportunities for those 50 and older to further their education and life experience. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, better known as OLLI, was founded by Bernard Osher. He wanted to promote the idea of lifelong learning by offering noncredit courses with no assignments or grades to adults over the age of 50. OLLI programs can be found at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. Both programs promote lifelong learning and personal growth that keeps seniors active and social, and these courses can range from a one-time course to longer, more involved courses.

More specifically, OLLI at OSU noncredit courses offer continuing education in a variety of topics such as art, literature, languages, fitness, food, music, writing, history, science and more.

Programs also have special events, lectures, day trips, other travel opportunities in the United States and abroad, and social activities to enrich an individual’s quality of life.

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Both OLLI at OU and OSU require an annual membership to be able to enroll. At OU, annual membership is $55, valid from July 1 through June 30 of the next year. Classes at OU are held at the Norman campus in the Thurman J. White Forum building. To learn more about OLLI's activities and upcoming classes and events at OU, you can join a mailing list at or call 405-325-3488.

OLLI at OSU offers two options for membership that are an “a la carte” annual membership for $40 and a “Premium” annual membership for $200. Both memberships are valid from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. For more information regarding membership at OSU, contact the program's director Robbin Davis at 405-744-5868 or at

Classes at OSU occur in the fall, spring and summer across four Oklahoma locations ― Stillwater, Tulsa, Bartlesville and Oklahoma City. In Oklahoma City, the courses are available at Epworth Villa Retirement Community (nonresidents are welcome) and the Senior Health and Wellness center, 11501 N Rockwell Ave. in Oklahoma City. Courses also are available online.

Seniors can apply for assistance at both OU and OSU for need-based scholarships to help with membership fees.

OLLI programs can be found all over the United States at various participating college campuses, so I encourage you to share this opportunity with loved ones who live across the country.

More information can be found at and

I hope this information inspires someone to reignite the fire of being a lifelong learner. Whether you take on cooking a new recipe or become an OLLI member, that step will benefit your mental and physical health. You are never too young or too old to adopt a more enriched life by feeding your curiosity, learning something new, adding a spark to your life and making new friends.

Robin Gunn
Robin Gunn

Robin Gunn is the owner of The Oklahoma Senior Journal. She can be reached at 

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Older adults can become lifelong learners, improving cognitive health