Canine nephews Toby and Atticus, photo courtesy of Steve's human nephew Eric Himes
A Taste of OLLI
Graphic above courtesy Lory Richards, OLLI at Northwestern University
Photo Below: Red Butte Garden and Arboretum, University of Utah
"Taste of OLLI," Open Houses, "OLLI Showcase," and variously entitled previews of courses and programming are nothing new to Osher Institutes. The underlying goal is to attract new members and renew lapsed memberships. But the pandemic led to cancellations of many events last year. Still, enterprising OLLIs devised ways to welcome participants and preview their offerings online - often as practice and prelude to the delivery platform of the 2020-21 academic year. While some Institutes continue to have severely limited in-person offerings, many members are excited and willing to get together for these welcoming events.

Osher staff and volunteers are adapting and evolving event formats as local circumstances require. Osher at the University of Utah is moving their once fully indoor event to the striking Red Butte Garden and Arboretum, on their campus (see photo on left).

Director Jill Meyer notes, "In past years, we have had a lovely continental breakfast buffet in early August for our membership. They meet our fall term instructors and attend a lecture, free of charge. It was previously at the University Guest House ballroom. This year, we have switched venues. People can enjoy their breakfast outdoors in the garden and meet instructors in the Orangerie. We will also have Red Butte Garden docents stationed in the garden for a kind of self-guided walking tour with the opportunity to stop and ask questions as needed at various posts."

Opening up events to the public, free of charge, often brings added media attention from various sources. OLLI at Southern Oregon University is presenting their first welcoming series of four Tuesday events this summer, each featuring a sample talk from one of their wide-ranging instructors. Peg Evans, OLLI at SOU volunteer Chair of Communication and Community Outreach already notices: "I would say we have been able to get articles in newspapers where we don't usually get them. I hope to get new members and prospective members." And not to be undervalued are mentions in University publications and websites, such as this article for OLLI at Penn State York's August 16th Open House.

OLLI at Northwestern University Director Kari Fagin recommends "placing your Taste of OLLI publicity in the member newsletter with a header like, 'Do you have a friend who you think would enjoy OLLI?' Current members are the best salespeople." Like other directors, she knows the power of current member persuasion. Tricia Inlow-Hatcher, OLLI Director at North Carolina State University, notes their historical practice in making personal contacts. "Members of our Membership Development and Marketing Committee make calls right before our September Open House to people whose memberships have lapsed for a year. It is a very nonthreatening phone call, simply asking if they got the catalog, do they know about the Open House, do they want to stay on the mailing list, etc. The callers find that former members appreciate the call."

No matter the format, venue, or timing, OLLIs have found successes by:

-Providing incentives for participation - including food when in-person; door (or Zoom login) prizes or drawings. How about an OLLI gift certificate for a free course or even a small discount on membership fees?

-Asking a civic authority to name the event day in honor of lifelong learning or OLLI - a mayoral proclamation, or in the case of Alabama, the gubernatorial-declared "OLLI Day Alabama" (August 20, 2021 this year) can garner more response from participants, media, and allow a multi-OLLI partnership.

-Consider spreading your kick-off event over a series of days. OLLI at University of Oregon embraced the virtual modality and multiple sites, putting on their first-ever joint recruitment event earlier this year, "Discover OLLI-UO." This event provided participants with a week-long sampler of program offerings for them to drop in on, kicking off with a short Zoom onboarding and opening session. (They added 19 new members from the effort and engaged many other current members.)

-Consider selling sponsorships to businesses, organizations, or even individuals to cover costs - "Thanks to Jane and John Doe for their sponsorship of refreshments for today's Taste of OLLI."

Northwestern's Kari Fagin reminds that the focus should center on the member and participant experience:

-Take time to have participants share a little about themselves throughout the event. When they share, they feel more engaged and welcomed.

-When conducting a virtual Taste of OLLI, have participants respond to prompts in the chat - How did you hear about us? What about OLLI sounds the most interesting?

-Always have current members participate with you. Turn to them throughout the session so they can share their personal stories and excitement for the program.

-Send a follow-up email to participants with next steps (registration dates) and let them know you were happy they participated.

With many Institutes reporting lower overall memberships due to the pandemic, there is a universal need for member recruitment. In whatever way events are presented - online, in-person, or hybrid formats - new and lapsed members will appreciate the enthusiastic rally of a "Taste of OLLI" event at your Osher Institute in the coming weeks.

Submitted by: Peg Evans, Chair of Communication and Community Outreach Committee, OLLI at Southern Oregon University; Kari Fagin, Director, OLLI at Northwestern University; Tricia Inlow-Hatcher, Director, OLLI at North Carolina State University; Jill Meyer, Director, OLLI at University of Utah
Photo Friday
Photo Courtesy of the Photo Friday program - OLLI @ University of Rhode Island

The OLLI at University of Rhode Island has a Special Interest Group, aptly named "Photo Friday!". This Special Interest Group has been meeting via Zoom since the pandemic began and is still going strong. Each month a theme is assigned, then the group meets to show and discuss their photos. Past themes have included; “Windows and Doors”, “Seeing the Light”, and “Hands” to name a few. For the members of this Special Interest Group, participating is a great way to improve their skills, share their knowledge with others, and learn tips and tricks for taking better photos.

One of the early themes they photographed was "Signs of a Pandemic". The talented leader, instructor, and member of this group, Jan Armor, collected the photos and encouraged the group to submit a short video with their thoughts on the pandemic. The resulting video pulls together the photographs, adding in video and audio to relay a vision of the pandemic. The result is a slideshow and commentary, Pandemic: click here to view the video
The experience provided a deeper perspective on the pandemic for members of the Photo Friday! Group. Reflecting on her role as the Group Leader, Jan Armor stated, "I thought photography would be a good way for us to share some of our pandemic experiences during a difficult year. When I saw the images our OLLI photo group had captured for 'Signs of a Pandemic,' I knew I had to create a slide show that would do them justice." Member Brad Goff added to that insight, "We captured moments in time that we melded into a seamless pictoral essay that tells a greater historical story." Overall, members were grateful to have their visions shared. Group member Cindy Martin said it best, "It was an honor to contribute to this important documentary."
OLLI at URI Operations Manager Beth Desrosiers compiled the photos from each month’s theme into slideshow videos, you can view some of the past themes and photo results here:
April, “Seeing the Light”: Click here
February, “Diagonals”: Click here
January, “Red”: Click here
Submitted by: Beth P. Desrosiers, Operations Manager, OLLI at University of Rhode Island
Aging in Place during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Photo above is a sumbission to the study by University of Utah OLLI Member's mother, courtesy of Professor Valerie Greer

Over the past year and a half, the adage "home is where the heart is" has transitioned from metaphor to reality as many individuals were confined to home due to the pandemic. For Valerie Greer, an Assistant Professor in the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Utah, the concept of home as a physical representation of comfort became of even greater interest as the pandemic raged on. While thinking on the physicality of space and place, Professor Greer designed the study, "From Sheltered in Place to Thriving in Place: Dimensions of Aging in the 'Right' Place during the Pandemic" to identify the environmental factors that have helped older adults age in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a researcher in the intersection of architectural design, health environments, and resilient places for aging, Professor Greer "became interested in how environments affect perceptions of health and well-being" in older adults, and that "the idea of aging in place has changed significantly due to the conditions of the pandemic. Therefore, she enacted this study to build a collective and holistic viewing of environments as perceived by the individuals themselves. As it so happens, finding the "right environment in which to age" is not as simple as it may first appear.

To engage older adults in her study, Professor Greer recruited from the Salt Lake City and University of Utah communities, including OLLI, to invite individuals between the ages of 70-85 who live independently to participate. Fifteen contributors were selected, ten of whom were OLLI members. These participants were asked to take photos of meaningful places or objects in their everyday living environments and then discuss these images with the researchers. When describing this study in recruitment materials, Professor Greer explained that "the purpose [of this research] is to understand the factors that stimulate feelings of reassurance when aging in place, and to positively contribute to independent living opportunities for older adults." The selected participants took photos for one week as they lived their normal, day-to-day lives. Sometimes these images reflected items or environments which inspired them, and other times they represented barriers to productivity and happily aging in place.

As of July 2021, the study's recruitment goal has been completed, and the researchers are conducting interviews with the participants to inquire after particular photos and experiences. Study members have also been asked to engage in focus groups where individuals are asked to share their three favorite photos they took and explain the personal meaning behind these images. This enables them to engage in a greater discussion about the project as a whole. Professor Greer hopes that this research, which will be published in the coming months, will highlight opportunities for additional funding to study the relationships between the built environemtn and experiences of well-being, in support of aging in place.

Special thanks to Professor Valerie Greer. Learn more about Professor Greer and her research here.

Dear Olli
Dear OLLI,

I am an operations staff member who attended the Osher Institutes Volunteer Engagement Workshop on July 28th. In the workshop, the moderator mentioned that there are additional resources available on the "secure" site. Could you please tell me more about this?
-OLLI Staff
Dear OLLI Staff,
A great question! One of the functions of the National Resource Center for Osher Institutes is to provide resources to the OLLI network. As such, we produce and compile resource documents, outside research, webinars, workshops, conference presentations, etc. for exclusive use by Osher Institute leaders. With almost all content produced, we record and store it on our "Secure Site" for use by the Osher network. The secure site is a password protected library of this material. There is one caveat however, only the director of each Institute holds the password for that OLLI. So, if you need or want access to this content, you would need to work with your director to utilize the contents. The site is easy to navigate, it is grouped by type (conference presentations, webinars, etc.) and the most popular topics (such as volunteer management) are also compiled on their own page (the "Resources by Topic" drop-down menu). If you have the login information or your director is logging you in, go to and click "Secure Login" at the top of the page to access the secure site.



Have a question for Olli? Please send it in care of Kevin Connaughton ( 
Osher NRC 2021 Webinar Series
Mark your calendar for the next webinar on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 beginning at 2pm Eastern/1pm Central/12pm Mountain/11am Pacific/10am Alaska/9am Hawaii. Register for the webinar here.

Addressing Controversial Topics
What does an Osher Institute leader do when civil debate spills from the classroom into the greater OLLI membership, or even the community at large? Two Institute directors share their experiences with controversial topics that went beyond the classroom. Examples include controversial events, speakers, and topics from the political arena that caused issues for their members, Institute, and in some cases, the University. Attendees will hear how the controversies were handled, how the situations were managed, and the lessons these directors learned from their varied experiences. Learn the methods and skills for managing controversial topics and preparing for the outcomes that may occur.

Lisa Barton - Director

Lynn Provenzano - Executive Director

If you have interest in being a presenter or have ideas for future webinars, please contact Kevin Connaughton (
Job Board
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