The Joys of Learning in Retirement

I know the newspaper clippings are hard to read and I didn’t do the best job of cutting out the picture. The Register-Guard normally posts their special publication content online but the Retirement Guide is one that they don’t make available online. I had three stories in the March 2014 edition: one about downsizing and de-cluttering your home; one about about frauds that senior citizens are vulnerable to; and this one, lifelong learning opportunities through community organizations, the University of Oregon and Lane Community College.

Learning in Retirement

No degrees, no certifications, just learning for the sheer pleasure of learning

By Vanessa Salvia

Perhaps your college years ended long ago. Still, that’s no reason to stop cracking open the books. The difference between learning during your early life and learning later on is that you don’t have to worry about grades, homework or pulling all-nighters cramming for exams. Learning in retirement is just for the fun of it.

There are many programs in Eugene for active seniors who want to continue learning new things about the world. Not only is learning in retirement a great way to keep your brain active, it also provides a rich social outlet.

Pam McClure-Johnston is president of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), offered in partnership with the University of Oregon. “I think what it brings is helping to meet a need for intellectual growth and also a sense of community,” she says. Though she is now president, which is a voluntary position, her and her husband started off enjoying the benefits of OLLI as members. Because OLLI is affiliated with universities, members tend to be professionals or academics. “Most of our members may have stopped their professional careers but they are very interested in continuing to learn about the world, their communities and important issues both nationally and internationally,” McClure-Johnston says. “Many of them have traveled all over the world. In my husband’s and my case, and is the case for many OLLI members, we came to Eugene because we had family here and the only people we knew here were our children, so OLLI provided an important social outlet.”

OLLI is a national program with 117 institutes on university and college campuses in all 50 states. OLLI at the University of Oregon was established 1993 and in Bend 10 years ago. A coastal program in Florence is now in the pilot stage. Members must be 50 years old or better, and the small annual fee ($130 for an individual or $110 for a household) covers participation in the program and also allows access to OLLI’s all over the country.

“We offer individual lecture sessions, lecture series, peer-led discussion groups and many other activities that are done as a group,” says Ruth Heller, OLLI-UO program director. “We are going to the Ashland Shakespeare Festival to see three plays and talk with an actor. In April we’re going to the Portland Art Museum,” she says. “You go with a group of people that you generally know so you have a cohort of friends within the program.”

OLLI-UO hosts a wide range of events including a discussion group that is dedicated to science, two book groups, a short story discussion group and a creative writing group. “It creates a place for people to gather post employment,” says Heller. “You may have looked to your work environment to give you a connection outside of your family and friends and I think that people find that their membership provides a lot of that in post employment. It gives people a sense of purpose, a place to share interests, connect with others and have a broader place to meet people.”

The Successful Aging Institute offers continuing education and non-credit classes through Lane Community College. “It’s one of the most easily accessible programs in our area,” says director Barbara Susman. “We offer up to 350 classes per term, with a special focus on seniors since 2008.” SAI offers classes, training sessions and workshops in partnership with many community organizations such as yoga studios, AARP, caregiving agencies and the public library. “It’s for people of all ages who want to successfully age,” Susman explains. “We take a very holistic approach. Successful aging is whatever you want it to mean.” Susman also oversees the Senior Companion Program, which provides paid positions for adult companionship. “Our companions tell us that they hope their clients get as much out of it as they do,” Susman says. “It’s a very worthwhile way to spend their time.”

LCC’s Continuing Education department offers both classroom and online classes in many subjects, such as using computers and the Internet, bookkeeping, grant writing and selling on eBay. Spring term SAI classes include plein air painting, nature photography, AARP driver safety and yoga.

All of the Park and Recreation districts around town offer classes and events just for older adults. Adult classes through Eugene Parks and Rec are offered through the Campbell Center, Petersen Barn Center, Amazon Center and Sheldon Center. Successful Aging Institute offers water fitness classes through the River Road Rec Center. As of January 2014, Willamalane Park and Rec District began offering an indoor golf driving range just for 50+ adults. They even offer a gentle Zumba Gold class for Zumba fitness that’s just a little less intense.

Whatever your interests are now that you’re an adult with the free time you always dreamed of, there’s a program out there for you.



UO’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
UO Baker Downtown Center
975 High St., Suite 110


Successful Aging Institute
101 W. 10th Ave.


Senior Companion Program of Lane County
101 W. 10th Ave.


Lane Community College Continuing Education


Eugene Recreation Programs for Adults


Amazon Center
2700 Hilyard St.


Campbell Center
155 High St.


Petersen Barn Center
870 Berntzen Rd.


River Road Park and Recreation District
1400 Lake Dr.
Main Office: 541-688-4052; Pool: 541-461-7777


Sheldon Center
2445 Willakenzie Rd


Willamalane Park and Recreation District


Willamalane Adult 
Activity Center
215 W. C St.,


Willamalane Center for Sports and Recreation
250 S. 32nd St.,


Willamalane Park
 Swim Center

1276 G St.,







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