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OLLI program at CSUSB helps those 50 and up continue to learn and find connection during pandemic


Some of our valley’s most vulnerable to the coronavirus are using their time in isolation to learn something new.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, also called OLLI offers classes to seniors at Cal State San Bernardino Palm Desert campus.

News Channel 3’s Caitlin Thropay introduces us to an OLLI student who shared how these now virtual classes have helped her get through quarantine.

“After I retired and my husband and I moved out here his health was failing and after he died I thought I need something to do, something worth while to do, a reason to get up, get dressed and go somewhere and do something productive,” Merrie Lyn Schickler, a student in the OLLI program at CSUSB told News Channel 3.

Schickler joined OLLI in 2014.

OLLI is geared towards people 50 and over who just love to learn. There are no tests, no grades, no pressure, just a wide range of topics.

This year, classes all moved online to Zoom classes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I didn’t know if I could do it," she said. "I was skeptical. I thought I don’t know if I could do it and I don’t know if I’ll like it but it came together very quickly and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, you know elementary students are learning through Zoom and if I can’t do this I’m not a lifelong learner,” she added.

“You know I think the great thing about these classes, particularly around this period of time where we’re all kind of stuck in our house; it gives people connection to other people and connection to learning,” Lara Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist is an OLLI instructor.

“Last term I took a class from Lara in current events," Schickler said. "I took a class on how to spot fake news,” she added.

Bloomquist teaches about 25 students in her online class.

“People of our audience, 50 and over are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus and are more cautious than anyone about staying safe, staying home and this is a great way to continue being engaged and connect with other people,” the director of OLLI, Sue Anderson said.

“Several of my neighbors are taking the class with me so I don’t see them too often in the community but I can see them online,” Schickler said.

Next week starts their one-week classes where you can try out a class for ten dollars.

“It’s a great time to try it out with no obligation,” Anderson said.

If you miss that opportunity, there will be more classes to join in October.

“In addition to classes, we’re also doing a lot of free member events like coffee hour interviews and happy hours with entertainment," Anderson said. "We’re doing all kinds of fun and interesting things via Zoom so you can just sit back in your comfortable chair and enjoy,” she added.

If you're worried about learning Zoom, OLLI offers one-on-one training and in-class support so there’s never an excuse to stop learning.

Their one-week classes begin September 21.

To learn more about the OLLI program at CSUSB click here.

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Caitlin Thropay

Caitlin Thropay is the Weekend Morning Anchor and Lifestyle Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News Leader. Learn more about Caitlin here.


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