By John Schieszer
For Senior Voice 

Fall educational opportunities abound for Alaska seniors

 

September 1, 2020



If you would like to improve your computer skills or take an art class, now is the perfect time. In Alaska, never before has there been such an opportunity to learn online and expand your mind by signing up for educational courses.

OLÉ! Anchorage

In Anchorage, seniors can sign up for fall session classes offered by OLÉ! (Opportunities for Lifelong Education). Although there is no minimum age requirement, classes are geared to adults age 50 and older. Courses begin September 28 and they are all online.

“OLÉ! is a way for seniors to access courses designed for intellectually-curious adults over 50. No tests, no papers, no grades, just learning for the love of it,” Barbara Brown, who runs OLÉ! Member Support, told Senior Voice. The complete course catalog for the upcoming fall term is available beginning Aug. 21 on their website at http://www.oleanchorage.org. Due to the COVID pandemic, all courses are being offered online only, via Zoom.

OLÉ! membership is required to enroll and the annual membership costs $150. Members may take as many classes as they like and topics range across a wide variety. You can take Beginning Russian, science courses, Tai Chi, film and economics. Overall, 41 different courses are offered. For more information you may also call 231.0095.


OLLI in Fairbanks

In Fairbanks, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is a membership organization offering courses, lectures, educational travel and special interest groups for adults age 50 and older. Members can explore academic and general interest classes, but without the stress of tests and grades.

“We had planned a few in-person offerings. We have since canceled all in-person class meetings for session I (September through mid-October) and will make a final decision about session II (mid-October through November) in late September, but it doesn’t look likely at the moment,” said Sarah Garland, who helps run OLLI. “As of now, we are only offering registration for real-time distance-delivered courses. This is a big change for us because we’ve been 100% in-person historically, except for having a few distance instructors participate via Zoom,” Garland said.

OLLI is offering real-time distance delivery via Zoom so that it doesn’t encourage its members to gather indoors. Garland said many individuals feel like they are under a prolonged house arrest in this pandemic, and that is especially true for high-risk individuals. The CDC removed age per se as a risk factor, but most older adults have one or more of the underlying health conditions that make them high risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19.


“As this drags on, our need for connection to others and intellectual stimulation just increases. We’ve had to postpone travel and in-person visits with grandchildren and other loved ones. We need something to occupy our minds and keep us going while we continue to hunker down and wait for the virus to be controlled enough to make it safe to go back to doing our usual activities,” Garland told Senior Voice.

There are 123 other “Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes” around the country, but each program is completely independent, with many different formats, fees and ways of operating. Members are invited from all backgrounds and a college education is not a prerequisite for membership. The membership is open to adults 50 and older and their adult companions and the annual fee is $35. The membership year is January to December and it includes e-newsletters, socials, lecture series, special interest groups, and eligibility to register for courses and special programs.

Most classes meet on weekdays, once a week, for four weeks. Topics are in the fields of art, computers, current events, health, history, literature, music, philosophy and science, as well as exercise and hobbies. Classes are taught by current and retired faculty of UAF and by others with specialized expertise. All of the instructors are volunteers.


OLLI offers two types of membership: members pay $35 per year plus $15 tuition per course, or they can get an unlimited membership and pay $185 per year with no per-course tuition. Some courses have a materials fee or facility fee and all students must pay those fees. See the website at http://www.uaf.edu/olli.

University of Alaska for seniors

There is a senior citizen tuition waiver program available as part of a University of Alaska system-wide policy, allowing eligible Alaskans free tuition at any UA campus. With this program, regular tuition is waived for Alaska residents who meet certain criteria. You must be age eligible to receive full (unreduced) Social Security retirement benefits and you must register on a space available basis. “Space available basis” means when courses can accommodate such students in addition to other enrolled students.

Full Social Security benefits age is currently age 66 and 10 months, residents born after 1960 will reach full benefit age at 67. With questions about eligibility, you can contact Student Accounts by email at uas.cashier@alaska.edu. The waiver is for tuition only and does not cover lab or materials fees, the Campus Consolidated Fee, or the Network Charge.

For more details, visit http://catalog.uas.alaska.edu/fees-expenses/senior-citizen-tuition-waiver/.

Author Bio

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

Email: medicalminutes@gmail.com

 
 

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