By Kali Lightfoot
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of S. Maine, Portland

I notice more and more people wringing their hands over what the boomers will want and how we LLI’s will have to change to meet the incoming wave and continue to attract members.

First of all, there are some 78 million boomers, and they are as diverse in their wants as any other generation. Ron Manheimer, one of the gurus in our lifelong learning field, has about the best attitude I have heard: there are 75 million boomers, which means that there are plenty to go around for just about any program, you want to market to them. If only a fraction want to join our institutes, that’s still a lot of people!

It is often said that we need to change our curriculum to satisfy the boomers, giving them smaller classes, more opportunities for participation, more on-site instruction (like learning about Gettysburg IN Gettysburg), etc. I think that has been the aim of adult education since it started, and isn’t it actually just good pedagogical strategy for anybody, no matter what age?

My own opinion is that IF changes need to be made in LLI curricula, they will be made organically, in their own time, by the people who serve on curriculum committees choosing the courses that make sense to them at the time. In truth, most of my boomer friends are very enthusiastic about what is right now being offered at OLLI and aren’t looking for change any time soon.

The flexibility and responsiveness of the student/volunteer-led LLI model should be able to deal with just about any need for change that does arise in the further future. And I guess finally I am disturbed by some of the presentations that make boomers sound like a bunch of hedonistic intellectual lightweights who want easy hand-on classes in short doses. Piffle.





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