The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the UW (OLLI-UW) offers the opportunity for adults over the age of 50 — like students Murray Urquhart and Charlene Joy — to learn new things and meet new people through a variety of short academic programs.
Greater Seattle-area residents Murray Urquhart and Charlene Joy have enjoyed long careers in anesthesiology and teaching that called for continuous learning. When they quit working full-time, they wanted to continue to engage in activities that exercised their minds.
That’s why they were excited when they heard about the OLLI-UW. Over the past several years, Murray and Charlene combined have taken more than 60 classes. With the freedom to watch courses online at their leisure without any tests or pressure, it’s been easy to immerse themselves in a variety of subjects.
A Desire to Try Something New
OLLI-UW — a partner program of UW Continuum College — engages more than 1,700 participants across the state of Washington and beyond. In 2022, OLLI-UW issued a call for volunteers who could help host Forever Curious, a new podcast series designed to broaden the lifelong learning program’s reach.
We want to reduce social isolation and stimulate the brain. This podcast is another way OLLI-UW and Continuum can inspire more students to be lifelong learners.— Natalie Lecher, Director, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UW
“We want to reduce social isolation and stimulate the brain,” says Natalie Lecher, director of OLLI-UW. “We do that by engaging people in our short courses, lectures and opportunities to talk with one another. Zoom has helped us advance in technology, and our instructors have opened themselves up to more possibilities. This podcast is another way OLLI-UW and Continuum can inspire more students to be lifelong learners.”
When Murray and Charlene saw the call for volunteer hosts, they were thrilled about the chance to take their learning with OLLI-UW to a new level.
“The chance to host the podcast checked off so many boxes for me,” Charlene explains. “I could combine my love of education with the University of Washington and meet these wonderful professors. I used to sit in class and wonder how the instructors became experts in their fields and now I get to ask them.”
Murray was equally inspired. “I sing and have taken voice lessons in the past,” he says. “So, when the opportunity to use those skills and ask interesting questions as a podcast host came up, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer.”
Murray and Charlene officially became hosts of Forever Curious podcast episodes in 2023. They hosted a range of discussions throughout the 12-episode debut season, now available via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and other platforms.
Not surprisingly, they have found interviewing instructors to be one of the most rewarding parts of producing the podcast.
“I absolutely enjoy the conversation with instructors and am fascinated by the topics we discuss,” says Murray. “Seeing them outside the classroom and learning about their backgrounds and interests offers insights I wouldn’t otherwise have.”
For Charlene, many of her interviews with instructors have opened doors to new areas of learning. A discussion with astronomer Bruce Balick about how a book he read as a child ignited his interest in the stars made her think about what she could share with her grandchildren.
Charlene Joy hosting an episode of OLLI-UW's podcast, Forever Curious.
Another chat with birder and nature author Constance Sidles inspired Charlene to visit a local park and connect with birds. “The stories the instructors tell are always very personal, and it's that connection to your own life that gets you interested in going deeper,” she says.
Spreading a Wealth of Information
It’s not just Murray and Charlene who are flourishing. By offering the opportunity to tune in during other activities, the podcast enables other students to learn outside of lectures and stay intellectually stimulated. The free and shareable nature of the content makes the podcast accessible to anyone interested in tuning in — even if they’re outside the area or not enrolled in the program.
“It's incredible at 70 years old to find out I'm so thirsty for knowledge that I want to keep doing this for as long as I live,” Charlene says. “One of my goals is to help OLLI-UW reach people in retirement centers and nursing homes. Podcasts are a way of life now for many people and we have the chance to reach a tremendous number of people worldwide. It’s a phenomenal opportunity for anybody interested.”
You can help support a vibrant community for adults over 50 like Murray and Charlene.