2009-01-15 / News

URI to serve as home for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

With an eye toward bridging the gap between the older community and education, the University of Rhode Island's Program in Gerontology in the College of Human Science and Services will develop the first Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the state.

Phillip Clark, professor and director of the Program in Gerontology, and a state-wide university-community coalition have secured a one-year, $100,000 grant from the San Francisco-based Bernard Osher Foundation for a start-up program designed to establish a lifelong learning community for adults age 50 and older.

"Our goal is to capture a sense of enthusiasm for learning among older adults," Clark said. "This program is really about learning for the fun of it. We want to create a sense of excitement with adults learning together."

As an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, URI will offer noncredit educational programs specifically developed for older adults. Courses, six to eight weeks in length, will be held on a wide range of topics at each of the four URI campuses. Additional programs will include lectures, open houses, field trips and special events involving music and theatre performances.

The Lifelong Learning Institute will be as much about building community as it is about education, according to Clark. With plans for lunch-and-learn programs and receptions linked to cultural events in communities around the state, the program aims to provide opportunities for social and educational enrichment.

The grant from the Osher Foundation is renewable annually for up to four years, provided the program can secure certain levels of dues-paying members each year. The goal by the end of the first year is to have 100 members. If, by the end of the fourth year, the program has 500 members or more, URI will be eligible to receive a $1 million endowment from the Osher Foundation. An additional $1 million endowment is available if more than 1,000 members join.

There are more than 13,000 URI alumni aged 50 or older living in the state, with another 9,000-plus residents set to turn 50 within the next decade, making URI an ideal location for the OLLI program. The program, however, will not be limited strictly to alums. It is open to all Rhode Island residents 50 and older who are interested in being a member of a lifelong learning community.

As the program grows, members will be able to develop courses and social programs that fit their interests. In addition to recruiting members, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at URI seeks volunteers to assist with many different aspects of the program.

To learn more about how to become a member of the Lifelong Learning Institute at URI as well as its various benefits, contact either Judy Sweeney at 874-5311 or rigec_jsweeney@uri.edu or JoAnn Evans at 874-7846 or jmevans@mail.uri.edu.

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