UCLA sent me as its representative to Broomfield, Colorado, site of this year’s OLLI conference. The program ran from Monday evening on April 25 to lunch on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. There were plenary sessions (interesting speakers presenting useful information), keynote addresses (similarly learned speakers), breakout sessions (small group get-togethers), facilitated table topic discussions (similar to the breakout sessions) and plenty of food.
The first plenary session on Tuesday morning featured Diane Lebson talking about ”How to Raise the Money You Need for the Critical Work You Do.” Ms. Lebson packed a day’s worth of fund-raising ideas in one hour. Her PowerPoint presentations were especially fun (yes, it’s possible to make PowerPoints fun). One big takeaway from the session was to understand the why, as in: Why does your OLLI exist? Why should people support you?
The keynote address was entitled, “Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life” by the well-known author and psychiatrist Dr. Louise Aronson from the University of California at San Francisco. She explored the challenges associated with aging in the U.S. and offered a positive approach to overcoming those challenges. That approach includes community organizations and volunteers getting more involved with older people, and intergenerational relationships becoming more meaningful. She also talked about ageism, which is the practice of classifying anyone over the age of 60 as “old and weak.” She stressed that older adults have different needs depending on the state of their health and not all should be treated the same. She also suggested that “we are all old people in training”, that we don’t “just walk away” from older people, “you don’t just push them out on the ice” and forget them. “You must continue to provide care.”
The breakout sessions I attended included how to deal with change and its effects on staff, volunteers and OLLI members; insights into strategic planning, which was about the important question of whether an OLLI wants to be in the same place in the future as it is now; and ways to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion in OLLI programs.
The founder of the Osher Foundation, Bernard Osher, attended the opening night session and gave a brief speech. It was a real privilege seeing and hearing the man who has given so much of his time and money to create the foundation that oversees the more than 120 OLLI’s around the country. He received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Without exception the conference programs were well-run, and the staff at the national level, among them Steve Thaxton, the executive director, and Stacey Hart Rivera, manager of operations, were really helpful. One particularly fun event was the “Woo-Hoo” competitions. Each OLLI was represented by a quick PowerPoint slide which highlighted one of its most successful programs. There were two winners each day and the winning OLLI was presented with a new IPad. UCLA was represented in the competition but unfortunately was not a winner.
The conference was a great experience for me and I learned a lot. I hope that whoever represents UCLA in the future learns as much as I did about the Olli world.