Retired and strengthening the mind

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Members of Temple’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute listen to a lecture in a classroom. | COURTESY Adam Brunner
Members of Temple’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute listen to a lecture in a classroom. | COURTESY Adam Brunner

Adam Brunner is a firm believer of the “retirement blues.”

Brunner is the director of Temple’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, or OLLI, a program that offers non-credit educational courses to people over the age of 50. Brunner said a retiree recently made him aware of the concept of “retirement blues” when he expressed his gratitude for OLLI.

“The way he put it was, when somebody retires, believe it or not it can be a stressful experience,” Brunner said. “They have a whole structure to their lives, but when you get to the retirement age … you don’t have the structure of knowing you have to wake up at a certain time, and you don’t get the satisfaction of producing something society deems valuable.”

“All of a sudden your time is free, and you don’t know what you’re going to do with yourself,” he added. “One man said the OLLI program rescued him from the retirement blues and helped him build a life in retirement that was as meaningful as the life he built as a young man.”

OLLI, which started in 1975 and offers 150 classes a year, was recently gifted $1 million from the Bernard Osher Foundation, which “seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts,” according to its website. This is the second million-dollar gift OLLI has received from the Bernard Osher Foundation in four years.

“[The first] was a wonderful gift that began our role to become a program that would be sustainable and last for generations,” Brunner said. “This most recent million dollar endowment … will even more so ensure that this program continues for years to come, because we’re at a point in history where older adults are the fastest growing portion of our population.”

“There will be more and more people who are retirement age and looking for more meaningful things to do with their time, and this is an appealing option,” he added.

OLLI offers non-credit courses at Temple University Center City, located at 1515 Market St. The program, which started out with about 85 people, now has more than 1,200 members, Brunner said.

People enrolled in the courses cannot acquire a degree or certificate, but Brunner said many retirees take the courses for their own interest in continuing their education.

“It’s really for people who are retired and want to extend their minds and horizons,” Brunner said.

“It offers new information – new knowledge,” he added. “We have classes on smartphones and tablets and world events. People are able to come to classes with people their own ages who are intellectually curious.”

A membership organization, OLLI requires annual dues of $290 for fall, spring and summer semesters, or $195 for a combination of spring and summer semesters, or $95 for just a summer semester. Members are able to attend as many classes as they want, are given access to a library and are invited to OLLI’s annual holiday parties and meetings.

Brunner said he thinks OLLI will become more popular in the future, especially with the recent gift from the Bernard Osher Foundation, which, headquartered in San Francisco, operates on 118 other campuses from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska, according to its website.

“When you’re young, education can be looked at as more of a stepping stone toward a career,” Brunner said. “So the courses are very goal oriented. Now that [OLLI members] are retired, they can take classes about things they are interested in.”

“If they were always interested in stars and looking up at the sky, well now they can learn about astronomy,” he added. “They can learn about all kinds of things.”

Claire Sasko can be reached at

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