Guest Commentary: Active Aging Week a great time to consider lifelong learning

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Connie Benko is a volunteer member and council chair for the University of Delaware’s combined Kent/Sussex Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program. She is a lifelong educator, teaching all ages from pre-K to adults.

By Connie Benko

Most residents of the First State are familiar with jingles, jokes and even TV programs about “Dela-where?”

But for many retirees and newcomers to our state, the question becomes “Dela-what?” Now that I’m living here, what do I do?

I invite the community to celebrate Active Aging Week, Oct. 3-9, by learning more about the University of Delaware’s lifelong learning program for age 50-plus.

It’s estimated that nearly 40% of Delaware’s population today is age 50 or older, with one of the largest 50-plus concentrations in the nation and growing, as more retirees choose to enjoy the First State’s tax advantages. Fortunately for seniors, there also are more opportunities than ever to remain active, from nonprofit organizations, such as the Modern Maturity Center and Delaware Senior Olympics, to services provided by the state.

University of Delaware’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program offers many ways to remain mentally and physically active, while also connecting with a vibrant community of adult learners. The institute offers a wide range of courses in subjects like current events, history, literature, languages, science, painting, ceramics, film appreciation, band and music ensembles, folk dance, yoga, tai chi and more.

The program is learning for the fun of it and for the sake of expanding one’s knowledge horizon, whether to learn more about a topic of interest or to explore something entirely new — all with no tests or homework.

In addition to classes, the institute offers a wide variety of extracurricular activities, such as book club, bird-watching club, craft circle and even a support group for care partners of people living with dementia symptoms. It also organizes travel and special learning opportunities, including a multiday UD by the Sea program in Rehoboth Beach each May.

The program is a great way to make friends and remain physically vigorous, mentally alert and socially engaged.

More than 2,000 Delawareans and our nearby neighbors currently join us for classes in Dover, Lewes, Ocean View and Wilmington, as well as online. In fact, with the growth of its online sessions during the pandemic, the university’s program is now the largest online Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the nation.

At the University of Delaware and across the country, the institute is affiliated with and receives partial support from the Bernard Osher Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on higher education, lifelong learning and the arts. Participants pay a modest fee that covers an unlimited number of courses each semester, as well as some extracurriculars. Financial assistance is available for those with a need.

A five-week fall session will begin on Oct. 18, with subjects like folk dancing, gardening, mah-jongg, media and elections, nonfiction writing, genealogy research, woodworking, stroke prevention, German, theater appreciation and more.

We hope you’ll consider joining us! Learn more at olli.udel.edu or visit one of our locations for a tour and chat with our members and staff.

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