Seniors sitting and learning in a technology class

What Virginia Seniors Need to Know About OLLI and Other Lifelong Learning Programs for Seniors

At different points in your life, you’ve learned for dozens of different reasons. At first it was for fundamentals, like eating, walking and talking. Later you learned to drive a car and, along the way, you gained the knowledge necessary to earn a high school diploma. Then you learned how to navigate adulthood, from college to career and fussy newborns to rebellious teens.

As a senior, you may find learning less essential — but that doesn’t mean your quest for knowledge needs to end. Lifelong learning allows you to keep growing and exploring the world around you, satisfying your curiosity, opening your mind to new ideas, and exercising your brain to keep your cognitive skills sharp.

Advantages of Lifelong Learning

Your motivation for learning in your later years may be different than in your youth, but the rewards are still plentiful, even when you’re learning for the simple pleasure of doing so. Researchers have shown lifelong learning offers a host of benefits, including improved memory and cognitive function, decreased depression, and improved self-image.

Numerous studies suggest continuing to challenge your mind in your later years may help delay the onset of dementia symptoms. Even learning that feels more like play, such as taking up a new hobby, can have a positive cognitive impact — particularly if the hobby requires developing a new skill, like playing an instrument or quilting. Other research credits lifelong learning with lower stress levels and even longer life expectancy. What’s more, participating in lifelong learning offers a natural social setting where you can meet others who share your interest in a particular topic or delight in mastering a new skill.

Lifelong Learning for Seniors in Virginia

Seniors in Virginia have access to a wealth of learning opportunities. In fact, numerous universities located within an hour of The Chesapeake offer lifelong learning programs tailored specially for senior learners.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes

Two nearby schools (William & Mary and Hampton University) operate Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI). OLLI programs, which were created for adults ages 50 and older “who are interested in learning for the joy of learning,” are found at 125 colleges and universities across the country. These programs offer continuing education for older adults through learning activities and non-credit courses taught by volunteers who are experts in their field.

OLLI courses are open to learners from diverse backgrounds, from those with little or no formal education to advanced degree holders. OLLI members are able to attend classes, lead courses as a volunteer instructor, or both.

Membership benefits vary by program, but typically include dues, as well as access to some courses and social activities. Courses are offered in various formats, including in-person on campus, online (so you can take classes from the comfort of home!), and at community partner locations like local libraries and community centers.

More Lifelong Learning Options Nearby

Other lifelong learning programs are available in partnership with nearby universities, including:

Learning for Pleasure

When you’re learning because you want to, the course options are nearly endless. This is especially true thanks to technology that makes it possible for you to learn about what captures your attention from virtually anywhere in the world. However, you’ll also find a remarkable selection of classes offered nearby that let you reap the benefits of staying mentally active.

From Christopher Newport University’s Lifelong Learning Society:

  • Botany for Gardeners
  • Cold Mountain and Beyond: Civil War Literature
  • Creative Nonfiction Writing
  • Practicing Poetry
  • Watercolor: Beginner-Intermediate

From the William & Mary Osher Lifelong Learning Institute:

  • Estate Planning for Modern Times
  • Introductory Astronomy
  • Shoreline Studies
  • Town & Gown: Virtual lecture series
  • Wild Times: Audubon’s America

Live Among Others Who Love to Learn

Keeping your mind sharp is easier when you surround yourself with peers who share your passion for learning. At The Chesapeake, residents embrace the community’s robust arts and education programming that nurtures seniors’ talents and thirst for knowledge. Lifelong learning keeps residents focused and engaged through activities like daytrips to local attractions, lectures on myriad topics, hands-on art classes, and community concerts and performances, just to name a few.

A Continuing Care Retirement Community located on 35 acres in the heart of Newport News, Virginia, we offer an engaging, maintenance-free lifestyle that allows residents to focus on what makes them happy. Come discover a place where you can fill each day exploring new ways to enrich your mind, body and spirit.