The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW (OLLI-UW) provides the opportunity for adults over the age of 50 to engage in thought-provoking courses and talks by local experts. The flexibility of the program’s online courses also enables students like Alex Suarez to learn and have community from the comfort of home.
Working as a clinical psychologist and a college professor at Antioch University and serval other institutions, Alex Suarez has always lived in a big city. However, when she retired, Alex moved to the small town of Ocean Shores.
Although Alex loved the ocean, quiet and natural beauty of the canals on the coast, she worried she’d miss artistic and cultural events, such as theater and dance. And in fact, she missed them quite a bit.
Staying intellectually active is good for the brain and people. Taking courses keeps us more interesting. Otherwise, we’d be talking about a limited scope of our lives.— Alex Suarez , Alumna, OLLI-UW
Hungry for learning and connection, Alex looked into the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW (OLLI-UW) programs she heard about when she was an employee at the University of Washington and living in Seattle. Initially, Alex thought she wouldn’t be able to participate in classes now that she was outside the city. But Alex was off to the races when she discovered she could take OLLI-UW courses remotely via Zoom.
“I took the first course on art, and it was so wonderful that I knew I had to try other courses. I counted the number of classes I've taken since COVID-19, and it's 54,” says Alex. “There's such a variety. I have the best of the university right here at my dining room table.”
Alex credits her teachers as one of the reasons why the programs are so good. She explains the instructors are all people with a tremendous amount of experience and expertise, which leads to interesting discussions. The other students in the program are another highlight, as some are outstanding presenters and excel at sharing information.
“There’s a certain amount of community that happens, and I don't feel alone,” Alex notes. “Although I am sitting here alone, I have connections in a whole bunch of different places and understanding about different areas.”
OLLI-UW’s programs made me not need to go out and seek the stimulation and social interactions I needed. I was able to get everything through these Zoom courses.— Alex Suarez , Alumna, OLLI-UW
The positive impacts of OLLI-UW on Alex’s life are threefold. One advantage is the intellectual stimulation offered by the courses, which Alex says is essential when you grow older. “Staying intellectually active is good for the brain and people,” she says. “Besides the physiological effects of continuing to learn, taking courses keeps us more interesting. Otherwise, we’d be talking about a limited scope of our lives.”
The second benefit is the pure number of programs OLLI-UW offers. “It's not just that I could learn about writing. I can learn about various things, such as birds, philosophy, oceanography and virology, which make the world seem richer,” Alex notes. “Our lives can get very small when you grow older, and it's important to keep them open and to be able to see other things.”
The third win was the ability to stay connected and access learning through OLLI-UW’s online programs from the comfort of Alex’s home. When everyone was isolating during COVID-19, OLLI-UW became a lifesaver. “OLLI-UW’s programs made me not need to go out and seek the stimulation and social interaction I needed,” she says. “I was able to get everything I needed through these Zoom courses.”
“I wish that everybody who lives in a small town and is within the age range of OLLI-UW knew about the programs available,” says Alex. “By offering courses on Zoom, Continuum has made it possible for people who live in very small towns to have access to things that would otherwise be unavailable to them.”
You can help open the door to opportunity for other students like Alex.