You’re getting older! Crow’s feet and gray hairs aside, the alternative isn’t too inviting. Within the next 15 years, it is predicted that one out of every five people in the United States will be 65 or older. In Maryland alone, over 14% of the state’s population is retired or soon to retire. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University is a part of a national network of Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, each affiliated with a college or university. At Towson, Osher operates out of the Center for Professional Studies within the Division of Innovation & Applied Research. As an organization, Osher is a bit of an outlier within this context. While CPS is busy training an emerging workforce to take over jobs that are being vacated by the retiring population, Osher is busy addressing the continuing education needs of this growing demographic.
Continuing Education for a Growing Population
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University offers classes, lectures, day trips, book groups, film series, and discussion groups for retired and semi-retired people, ages 50 and older. Osher members at Towson range in age from 50 to 92, representing different generations within their ranks. Members include those who served in World War II as well as hippies of the Baby Boomer generation and everything in between. Each member has his or her unique set of experiences but all cherish the idea of learning for the sake of learning.
At Osher, they find themselves in a learning community that provides a variety of college-level courses without the onus of studying, taking exams, doing homework, etc. Over 600 members strong (and growing), Osher members fill up classes on everything from the recent “Bugs to Bones” forensic science class taught by Towson professor, Dana Kollmann, to “Confronting Evil”, a class that focuses on the Holocaust survival through the behavioral science lens of Fred Emil Katz, a Holocaust survivor and retired professor of sociology. The range of courses available includes classes on superheroes, Virginia Woolf, Brazil, pharmaceuticals, French wines, and more.
A Personal Perspective
From my perspective, aging is looking pretty desirable if it means the continued possibility of taking classes and being part of a supportive community of learners. I was able to cajole my mother-in-law to join Osher this semester. She had to be coaxed a bit but now that she has taken classes, she is excited for more. After caring for and losing her mother, she had a rough couple of years and she seemed to withdraw quite a bit. Her outlook is changing and while I can’t give Osher all of the credit, I believe it’s been a large part of giving her back a sense of belonging and confidence. I think that’s true for a lot of the Osher members. Many have suffered the loss of a spouse, children, or even a sense of purpose that comes from no longer being involved in a career. Osher has given them more than just the opportunity to take interesting classes—“it’s also offered them the chance to meet new people and form friendships, to participate in “extracurricular” activities, and to volunteer by getting involved in the different committees that Osher relies on to help keep programs and activities strong.
In upcoming blog posts, I hope to introduce readers to some of the Osher members who will share their stories with us. We hear the adage that “age is just a number” and based on the vitality of our members, I think it’s true. In the time that you’ve taken to read this post, you’re that much older and closer to the opportunity to join Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University. Lucky you!