Dot seniors spice generational mix in UMass Boston’s OLLI offerings

The population of UMass Boston is becoming increasingly multigenerational, and one reason for the mix is the number of Dorchester’s senior citizens who attend and, in many cases, teach classes through the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

About 100 Dot residents are among this fall’s 1,100 students. And about a dozen of those locals will be volunteering as “course facilitators.”

Part of a national network of 119 similar organizations in every state, the Harbor campus’s OLLI college program enriches the intellectual, social, and cultural lives of those 50 or older without the pressures of the typical university environment.

The UMass OLLI boasts several distinctive features. It is the only lifelong learning program in the nation that is part of a graduate school in policy and global studies, and one of only two programs in the nation that is housed in the Gerontology Department. It’s also the only elder learning program in the US that has an active LGBT group, called Stonewall, at OLLI UMass Boston. Finally, it is the only lifelong learning program in the nation that provides a free access to Mango Language Program, allowing members to learn more than 50 languages by using computers, laptops, smart phones, and tablet devices.

On campus, the Fall 2016 offerings range from entry-level like “Introduction to Duplicate Bridge” to more advanced like “Mothers of Presidents” and “Myths of Origin: The Tribes of Ghana.” No academic or other credentials are required. There are no tests, no papers, and no degrees. Daytime classes meet once a week and last anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks.

Among the veteran Dot facilitators is retired elementary schoolteacher Helena Zubrin, whose “Working with Watercolor” series encourages late-blooming Georgia O’Keeffes. Jean Hunt, founder of the Neponset Health Center, will lead two walking tours: “South Cove Neighborhood” and “Bay Village, Boston’s Best Kept Secret.” Also doing double duty is professional chef Genevieve Forde who tempts palates with “The Food of France” and “Along the Spice Route: A History through Food.”

In addition, Cedar Grove’s Robert P. Dunford, a 38-year veteran of the Boston Police force, shares his expertise with “Community Policing; Myth and Reality.” Jeff Klein, a retired machinist and union president who has traveled to Palestine/Israel and the Middle East a dozen times, takes up the country’s involvement in that region with “The United States in the Middle East.” Two OLLI Scholars are offering courses: Joyce Wang (Gerontology PhD candidate) is teaching “Elder Scam and Identity Theft Prevention,” and Timothy Adivilah (Global Governance and Human Security, PhD candidate) from Ghana will bring insights to “Politics and Governance in Africa.”

Also in the mix: Judy Planchon will continue her “Intermediate French Conversation through Cinema” series and Jones Hill’s John Joseph Fahey will present “Selections from the World of Literature,” a survey course on several plays, including Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” as well as on shorter novels like James Baldwin’s “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Continuing in the literary vein are David Pogue’s two courses: “The Novels of Hermann Hesse” and “Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life” along with Danielle (Goncalves) Fontaine’s Poetry Workshop.

Finally, this reporter will present two videoconferences: “Shakespeare for Everybody!” and “The History of Mystery: Asian Villains and Detectives.”

OLLI also sponsors outings to local theaters, and day trips to local museums. Among the fall overseas adventures is the perennially popular “Discover Thailand,” led by Dr. Wichian Rojanawon, founder and Director of the UMB OLLI program. 2017 will bring “The Best of Cuba Cruise” and “Iceland’s Magical Northern Lights.”

To enroll in courses, which start late this month and in early October, visit OLLI.umb.edu, or call 617 287-7312 to request a catalog. Full or partial scholarships may be available on request.