OLLI members meet, talk present and future

MORGANTOWN –Jascenna Haislet is passionate about learning. She said her parents believed in lifelong education.

“I would be a professional student if I could afford it,” said the executive director of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

She said there is so much well-documented research about how staying socially connected to friends, family and community and staying intellectually challenged is just as important as physical wellness.

“Your brain is a muscle. It’s got to be worked and trained and such. The social aspects are really important parts of healthy aging,” she said.

It also gives people a purpose. Haislet said many times after a person retires they lose their sense of purpose. OLLI is a member organization as well as a volunteer organization.

“It gives people a sense of purpose to be able to give back as well,” said Haislet.

The organization’s annual meeting was held, along with an open house, Wednesday at its Mountaineer Mall location.

Ed Johnson, acting president and vice president of OLLI, said the yearly meeting is held before a new membership drive starts on July 1.

OLLI has an operation in Morgantown and also Charleston. OLLI is designed for people aged 50 and above. Johnson said as people get older it becomes easier to stay home and stagnate.

“This helps get people out of the house, and one of the big things is not just the learning but the social aspect,” said Johnson.

OLLI classes span a wide range of curriculum. Anything from knitting classes, yoga classes and discussions. Courses run like a college course, around an hour and 50 minutes, but there are no tests and no grades. Johnson himself teaches a Special Places in West Virginia class.

Their terms run fall, spring and summer. Johnson hopes to see online classes included soon.

OLLI also has the potential to grow. Johnson said the program has a lot of waitlists given they only have two classrooms that can accommodate around 50 people.

OLLI is part of the School of Public Health at WVU, as all OLLI programs must be affiliated with a college by Osher guidelines.

“We’re fairly happy here. We just need a little more space and the mall is kind of tight,” said Johnson.

OLLI also holds classes at the Village at Heritage Point for those who can’t make it to the mall.

“Other than that, I think just maintaining the quality. Recruiting more instructors … we also are in need of space,” said Haislet.