OLLI-USF offers low-cost classes for ages 50-plus

A large crowd of seated senior citizens listen to a presentation. An older man in a gray sweater and polo shirt smiles and holds a paper coffee cup in the foreground.

OLLI-USF members and prospective members learn about course offerings during a January open house. [photo: Jay Nolan]

By ALEXIS AGNEW, Class of 2025

When he retired as a senior business executive, Kevin Chittim looked for activities that would excite and engage him, plus give him the chance to meet new friends. He heard about Great Books, a literature class offered by Osher Lifelong Learning Institute-USF, and gave it a try. 

Eight years later, Chittim has taken nearly 500 classes at the institute, designed for ages 50-plus and known as OLLI-USF. For seven of those years, he has served as a volunteer faculty member and is in his second stint on its board of advisors.

“OLLI is for people who value the joy of lifelong learning, making great friends, sharing life experiences, mental and physical activity, and finding stimulation or new interests in our retirement years,” he says.

Fellow student, teacher and board member George Hyde says OLLI can be a fulfilling new avocation for people who’ve spent decades finding purpose through work and raising children.

“OLLI saved my life after I retired,” he says. “It gave me another reason to feel good about myself, another reason to get up in the morning and look forward to my day.”

A low-cost, member-based program, OLLI-USF is one of 125 Osher institutes at universities across the country. USF’s OLLI is more than 30 years old, operating under other names prior to 2005. It offers more than 300 classes throughout the year, including technology training, foreign languages, history, literature, philosophy and exercise. There are no tests, no grades and no pressure.

“A few years ago, we began expanding accessibility. Now in-person classes are offered at more than 10 partner venues throughout the Tampa Bay area. Many of our courses are offered online as well,” says OLLI director Veronica Maxwell, ’05, Life Member. “We continue to expand, diversify and improve our programs to make them available to more people, because — as our name says — learning is lifelong!”

OLLI isn’t just for scholarly pursuits; it also connects members with shared interests. Nearly a third of its members enjoy a dozen groups dedicated to pastimes such as hiking, dining out and board games.

When members expressed a desire to connect with younger people, OLLI branched out. Most recently, members have been helping stock the pantries of Feed-A-Bull, which offers free food to any USF student in need. 

“All OLLI-USF teachers are volunteers,” Maxwell says. “They are seasoned experts in their subject areas, who love sharing their life experiences with their peers and want to continue offering their help to the community at large.”  

OLLI memberships start at $50 a year. Classes range in price from $10-$70 for one to six sessions.

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