Linda Loretz is a retired educator. She spent twenty years as an administrator: elementary school principal and superintendent in a rural Connecticut school district. She also taught for twenty years: sixth grade, eighth grade and gifted. Linda has a BS in Special and Elementary Education from the University of Hartford and a MA in Teaching the Talented from the University of Connecticut.
Hello, my name is Linda Loretz, and I am the volunteer chair of OLLI’s curriculum committee. I recently attended the OLLI national conference with Eckerd OLLI Director Mary Szaroleta. One volunteer and one staff member from each of the 125 OLLI programs throughout the nation were invited to the conference, and there were multiple sessions related to the OLLI curriculum and many chances to discuss innovative offerings from OLLIs at different locations as well as multiple networking opportunities.
The most memorable session I attended at the conference was about intergenerational learning, presented by Eunice Lin Nichols, a co-CEO of an organization called Co-Generate (https://cogenerate.org/). She emphasized the importance of working across generations to help America better solve its problems and working across generations to reduce societal divisions. It was fascinating to hear about research and projects where people from different generations work successfully together. An exciting reflection on our culture she asked us to consider is that there have been some recent movies and television shows featuring “cogeneration.” These include A Man Called Otto, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Abbott Elementary. The positive relationships across generations in the media reflect changing views of intergenerational discourse.
As Eckerd OLLI members, we are fortunate to spend time on a beautiful campus filled with vibrant undergraduates. OLLI members recently tailgated at and attended a women’s volleyball game. Those who participated reacted quite positively, and the volleyball players were grateful to have OLLI members support their team. Comments from OLLI members included “Great time! Enjoyed feeling involved in campus life,” and “We loved the experience and hope that OLLI continues to partner with Eckerd for future athletic events.” There are plans to do the same for a basketball game in February 2024. Watch for details.
”“When there are strong bonds across the generations, it’s good for everyone. It creates understanding and empathy – something needed more than ever in today’s divisive climate. It creates a sense of community and a web of support for those who are most vulnerable.”- Eunice Lin Nichols, Co-Generate.
Another potential intergenerational event is the ECHO Global Farm Tour scheduled for Friday, November 17. Eckerd OLLI members will visit a creative working farm, taste tropical fruits and leaves, and explore a rainforest, a semi-arid desert, rooftop gardens, and so much more. ECHO, which started in the 1970s as the Educational Concerns for Haiti Organization, now reaches millions of small-scale farmers in more than 190 countries. ECHO’s mission is to help the poor help themselves. Sign up for this day trip at OLLI Trip to ECHO farm. Eckerd students will join OLLI members on this trip, and OLLI participants will be treated to a guided trek through Eckerd College’s Urban Farm later.
I hope I have convinced you that there are benefits to interacting with students and fostering intergenerational learning. In her presentation at the national conference, Eunice Lin Nichols clearly told us that “over 50” learners should not seek merely to mentor younger learners. Older and younger learners MUST enjoy learning from each other, and building relationships across generations can be mutually beneficial.
What else might work at Eckerd’s OLLI? I invite OLLI members to assist in defining “intergenerational” for OLLI at Eckerd. What should this involve, who does it involve, what is the goal? If you have suggestions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When there are strong bonds across the generations, it’s good for everyone. It creates understanding and empathy – something needed more than ever in today’s divisive climate. It creates a sense of community and a web of support for those who are most vulnerable.”- Eunice Lin Nichols, Co-Generate.