Prepared by the LLI Network at Road Scholar
When a house is built, an architect’s blueprint must first rise off the drafting board. Then, in subsequent steps over weeks and months, a cavalcade of professionals — masons, carpenters, electricians, roofers — take the house from concept to the creation of a dynamic, thriving household in a neighborhood or community.
The first stages of the creation of a Lifelong Learning Institute are much like the building of a house. They are done in steps:
As you read this guide, you will find it is designed to help you get a Lifelong Learning Institute off the ground and up and running in your community. The Lifelong Learning Institute Network at Road Scholar is uniquely qualified to assist such an endeavor because it is currently North America’s largest and most respected educational network for adults, with more than 400 affiliated Lifelong Learning Institutes — and more joining all the time.
The most important thing you should know is that at any time during the start-up of your new institute, you may contact the Lifelong Learning Institute Network at Road Scholar for help — at no cost. And once your new program has been developed, you can apply to join the Network and be listed on the website — and begin taking advantage of the benefits of membership.
Let’s take a quick peek at Lifelong Learning Institutes — past and present. And then in the bulk of this guide, you will glean substantive tips and answers that will give you perspective and purpose as you enthusiastically build your own Lifelong Learning Institute.
A Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) is a community of peer-learning in which members, and/or both retired and active faculty, and outside experts learn from and teach each other. LLIs offer non-credit college-level educational experiences, but with little or no homework and at a fraction of the cost. Classes are taught by members, and/or both retired and active faculty, and outside experts who have a particular expertise. But perhaps best of all — the life experience of all members elevates the discourse.
Lifelong Learning Institutes offer non-credit college-level educational experiences, but with little or no homework and at a fraction of the cost. Classes are taught by members, retired and active faculty, and outside experts who have a particular expertise.. But perhaps best of all — the life experience of all members elevates the discourse as you meet others who love to learn, get involved in lively discussions, better understand the world and yourself, and become eligible to participate in domestic and international study/travel programs designed exclusively by and for LLI members.
On a Tuesday morning, 35 adults gather in a college classroom to study, say, the writing of John Steinbeck or the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. The leader may be a retired art director or a local shopkeeper deeply knowledgeable of the subject.. This two- hour session is lively, full of discussion, humor, disagreement, insight and wisdom. When class ends, the talk spills out to the hallway, back to a lounging area, or maybe to a bulletin board listing upcoming events: a monthly faculty lecture series, a concert by the LLI’s newly created jazz combo, a study on the history of magic led by a local magician, an Impressionist art course that combines a trip to a nearby museum. This is learning for the sheer joy of learning.
In 1962, a group of retired educators met to discuss ways to stay intellectually challenged beyond what continuing education courses offered. They gathered at the New School for Social Research (now called the New School University) in New York City and developed a program run by and for adults, offering a college-level curriculum. The New School enthusiastically welcomed the adults onto their Greenwich Village campus under the name of the Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP). The IRP, still going strong today, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012–2013.
Between the start of this incredibly successful program in 1962 and the mid-1980s, the “learning in retirement” movement grew slowly with approximately 50 more Institutes for Learning in Retirement (ILR) being formed at such institutions as Harvard Syracuse University, Duke and UCLA. These early programs often relied on the founders of the IRP, who mentored these programs, to help get them started.
By the mid-1980s, the early visionaries of the movement were being overwhelmed with requests for help to start new programs. Clearly some kind of national mechanism to coordinate the start-up of new programs needed to be established.
Enter Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel). This organization was established in 1975 as the first and now biggest and best educational travel provider for adults in the country. It was only natural that Road Scholar and the early lifelong learners should come together as their missions are the same — outstanding educational opportunities for adults.
Consequently, in 1988, after informal discussions between the leaders of both groups, the Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN) opened its doors. The mission of EIN was and is to strengthen and support the effectiveness of established programs, to encourage the development of new institutes, and to disseminate information about the institutes and the movement in general. Between 1988 and 1999, a staff of five Elderhostel employees traveled all across the country leading workshops and giving advice on how to start new Institutes for Learning in Retirement. More than 200 new programs were started during these years. In 2000, the decision was made by an advisory group to change the generic name of Institutes for Learning in Retirement (ILRs) to Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLI). Then, in 2011, Elderhostel began offering educational travel programs under the name Road Scholar, so in 2013, the Elderhostel Institute Network changed its name to the Road Scholar Institute Network (RSIN). In 2015, Road Scholar launched its new website. To effectively recognize the significance of this new website and the scope of the new offerings, RSIN was re-launched as the Road Scholar Lifelong Learning Resource Network.
Today, the Road Scholar LLI Resource Network is North America’s largest and most respected educational network for adults, with more than 400 affiliated Lifelong Learning Institutes, and more joining all the time.
As we stated earlier, creating a Lifelong Learning Institute is much like the building of a house. It is done in steps:
Let’s go through them:
During Step 1 the organizers should:
During this step the organizers should aspire to:
Secure start-up funding. The major investment at this stage remains the time of the organizer(s). Additional costs include mailings to potential member-organizers, informational meetings with prospective members and planning meetings with community leadership. Secretarial time may become an important cost.
This step will require several months or more depending on the enthusiasm of the working group and the level of support from the host community. The goals are to:
Twenty to thirty actively involved members are desirable, with a smaller group of 6-10 recognized leaders who have been elected or appointed. This is the group that will take on the task of putting the Institute in place. The work might be divided into phases, with specific developmental tasks falling into each phase.
Some suggestions for work during this Step 3:
Planning costs grow as this phase proceeds. Basic needs to be addressed include:
The first semester might begin as early as six months from the original conception of the Institute, or it may take as long as 1-2 years to bring the program to fruition.
Institutes can run on a semester calendar extending from 8-15 weeks and/or they can hold study groups/courses from one to four to six weeks. The successful institute will determine duration of courses based on membership interest. Major tasks for the leadership during the first semester are:
The experiences of existing institutes suggest that direct start-up costs should not exceed $6,000. With an active group of member organizers doing much of the groundwork, direct expenses can be kept to a minimum until the first semester is under way and revenues are being generated from membership dues.
It is expected that an institute will be required to cover direct expenses in its third full year. By the fifth year, mature institutes may be expected to pay direct expenses and to generate sufficient revenues to provide a reasonable reimbursement to the sponsoring host for space and administrative overhead.
No discussion of finances can be divorced from two related considerations: size and the degree of volunteer leadership. Size will depend on at least three critical factors:
How high the membership dues are is tied to the extent to which the Institute will be managed by the volunteer efforts of the members. Institutes that maintain low annual dues (less than $100) rely heavily on volunteer leadership. Institutes that rely upon administration by paid professional staff must set higher dues.
To establish first-year dues, it is important to consider what the Institute’s needs will be in the future. First-year dues should be no lower than $75-$100 per person. Experience suggests that initial dues tend to set future expectations; it is difficult to implement large increases in membership dues once the Institute is in place. If membership targets are achieved and an initial surplus is initially generated, it may be used to cushion future increases, provide scholarships or create additional member activities or services.
At any time during the start-up phases of the new Institute, organizers may contact the Road Scholar Institute to discuss issues. There is no cost for this service. Once the new program has been developed, organizers will fill out a LLI Resource Network application and send it to the Network in order to be listed on the web site and begin taking advantage of the benefits of membership.
If you are thinking about hosting a Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) on your campus, you might consider the benefits for everyone, including your faculty, your students and the entire community. These are some of the many wonderful benefits.
Being sponsored by a college or university offers an LLI unparalleled and unique opportunities and benefits. Consider these compelling reasons for such an alliance:
Most of us know that the Baby Boom generation is defined as those born between 1946 and 1965 — and that much is being made over the retirement of the Baby Boomers. The 50-million-plus Boomers withdrawing from the workforce over a 20-year period will change the face of retirement. Some point to a potentially ominous impact on pensions and the delivery of health care services. Others say the retirement of such a large cohort will serve to somewhat refocus our nation’s cultural emphasis, and that our society will more fully appreciate, use and benefit from the wisdom, experience and knowledge of older adults.
In order to take advantage of the potential expertise and wisdom of the Baby Boomers as older adults, however, LLIs will have to hold some appeal for these people. To do that, a program will need to understand the dynamics behind this generation. It won’t be enough to expect Boomers to join your LLI because you have a good product or service. To attract them an LLI will need an understanding of their values, attitudes and lifestyles. Institutes will also need to know how and what shaped this generation — its history and its experiences.
The Boomers born between 1946 and 1965 arrived during a 20-year span after World War II, a time of almost unparalleled prosperity. The flip side of that, however, is that those born in the first 10-12 years of this generation were old enough to be impacted and shaped by the Cold War, the assassination of public figures, Vietnam, and the Peace Movement. Such events certainly leave their mark on a particular generation, as did the Depression and the Second World War on the preceding one. During the 1970s, however, as things settled down, Boomers focused more on raising their families then on world happenings. That being the case, LLI courses that address this decade would appeal to them.
Since the earlier years of this generation were a time when most mothers stayed home, it’s been said the Boomers are the most mothered generation in history. They have been called the “Me” generation, due to the focus on their own needs, desires and self-growth. Arguably, however, their having to compete with the millions of other Boomers has dictated the need to refine and hone their abilities in order to stand out in that crowd. So, they are always looking for new ways to do that, no matter what their age, which presents great opportunities for Institutes that offer courses to meet these objectives.
Given the need to interact, produce and effect change amid the sheer volume of Boomers has produced other ramifications as well. It means these cohorts are very busy, and quite stressed, so they want their information in short, easy-to-assimilate bursts. This translates into shorter LLI courses, nearer to home. It means they prefer the company and opinions of other Boomers, so stressing the community nature of an LLI will be a definite plus. Finally, this generation is, to date, the most educated in history, from pre-school right through job-enhancement training, post-college. So, lifelong education makes perfect sense to them. It is merely a continuation of an activity they have engaged in throughout their lives. Joining an LLI would simply be the next step for them.
There are, however, some gaps in their education. Many have not had time to learn how to deal with finances. LLI courses on this topic should have big appeal. They care about the local and global environments, but need more knowledge in this area. So Institutes might want to offer courses of this type, preferably outdoors. And, Boomers want to stay young and healthy.
They want to prolong youth and are rejecting terms that have to do with aging. Organizations such as AARP have already responded to that issue. So, Boomers will want courses on quality of life and ways to keep young. Many embrace any course or technique that is New Age, alternative or non-traditional and will continue to do so. Again, they will be amenable to the concept of lifelong learning, this time because learning keeps one younger. Hand-in-hand with thinking of themselves as young, however, they also tend to think of themselves as very special.
Baby Boomers have a sense of entitlement and expect to be treated as special (remember all that mothering). They also want to be in control. The hands-on management style of an LLI and the unique role of LLI members on campus should have instant appeal for them. And, being back on campus will evoke old memories for most of them. Baby Boomers are nostalgic, so LLI courses about the past should prove very attractive.
It is being said that with the lengthening of mid-life, thanks to improved health, and the inducement to stay in the workforce, (the removal of the Social Security penalty for working after 65, for instance), many people may not actually retire, as we think of it. Money Magazine has said 90 percent of the people it queried plan to become self-employed after they retire. If this is the case, then LLIs may want to look at evening and Saturday programs for those who are still working. They may also want to offer programs that are more hands-on and teach new work skills.
Baby Boomers also have a lack of fear, are willing to take risks, and want to try anything new and different. The more unusual and offbeat an LLI course is, the more it is likely to appeal to the Boomer. Outdoor programs will also be a big draw, as they tie in to the more health-oriented focus of the Baby Boomers. Along with that, the more process-oriented and experiential a course is, the more appeal it will have, as will small discussion groups. And, just because your LLI is located in the snow belt, don’t think the Baby Boomers will abandon you in a move to warmer climates.
Studies have shown that only 5 percent of people actually move after retirement. Most, of course, want to stay near family, friends and that which is familiar. For those who do move however, many are looking for a full-service community. College towns with their varied mix of cultural activities are a big draw as they almost always have a wide array of amenities and services that appeal to all ages. It would make sense for LLIs to begin thinking about offering a full range of options such as partnering with senior centers, creating demonstration projects and implementing service programs in order to attract Baby Boomers. And, along with all that, let’s not forget about technology.
Baby Boomers are the technology pioneers, having developed, implemented and expanded the technology movement into a worldwide phenomenon. LLI classrooms are going to have to be “smart” classrooms, wired for the very latest in computer technology, capable of handling extremely high use by the Boomers.
Lastly, with the aging of the Boomers, the lack of diversity in LLIs will begin to change. The percentage of educated minorities in this generation is much higher than in the last, and continues to increase daily.
So there you have it, a very brief summary of what LLIs are going to need to think about in order to market their programs to the Baby Boomers. What works for one generation generally does not fully translate into the next. Some tweaking is always necessary given the tenor of the times that helped shaped a particular cohort. What is good to remember, however, is that the 76 million people who make up the Baby Boom generation will ensure the viability of the Learning in Retirement movement, and LLIs in particular, well into the 21st century.
The role of leaders and teacher in an LLI is, above all else, to inspire and educate. So be sure the people that are put into these positions are enthusiastic and capable. Quite simply, uninspiring people have greater difficulty inspiring others. So, make sure the pilot light is lit in the mind of your leaders and teachers before you expect them to ignite it in others’ minds.
Leaders and teachers have years of experience, knowledge and skill from a great many different working situations and life experiences. They strive for excellence in themselves, promote it in their groups and play a variety of roles in helping people to learn. Excellent leaders are those who can transform intention into reality. They communicate their vision and garner support from others for it. They are passionate, persistent, consistent and focused, maintaining the group or organization’s effectiveness when the going gets rough. They create a dynamic and supportive working environment in which they can harness people’s energies to bring about desired results.
Among the inspiring things leaders and teachers do are:
At the very heart of each Lifelong Learning Institute are the courses. A Curriculum Committee puts in long hours planning and organizing. That hard work shows in the quality of the courses offered by each LLI. Here are types of courses that are popular at Lifelong Learning Institutes and the reasons why. The course topics at the end of this article were taken from LLI newsletters and course catalogs.
For purposes of this paper, courses are separated into the following broad categories: The Humanities (includes Music, Literature, Writing, Poetry, Theatre and Fine Arts); Body/Mind (includes a vast array of eclectic topics); Hands-on (this is the ultimate “how-to list); Finance; Science; Ethnic Culture; Local Interest (talk about variety); Political/Governmental; History; Language; and finally, a Miscellaneous category.
Since the Humanities have so many sub-categories, it seems the largest number of courses fall under this category. For most people, these topics took a back seat to other courses while they were in school. Given the popularity of Humanities courses at Lifelong Learning Institutes, it appears that people want to make up for not having had time prior to retirement for artistic pursuits.
Next under discussion is the Body/Mind category. Whether it’s nutrition, medical issues, physiology, personal growth or mental health, there’s a course to be found on this list for everyone. What this category shows is that people are always looking for information on how to improve themselves, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well, no matter what the age.
Also in this category are the courses that show a real desire to delve into the unknown. Whether one is trying to understand dreams, grasp the concepts of Feng Shui or the mystery of time, or even learn about astrology, there are a lot of questions out there waiting for answers.
The “hit parade” of courses continues with History next on the list. This stands to reason because lifelong learners have lived history and are eager to understand better what they have lived through. They can look back, perhaps make more sense out of what has happened, and see the overall picture much clearer than their younger counterparts.
Courses in the category called Local Interest show a real desire on the part of members to learn about their immediate environs. It appears all the courses are focused on the world immediately outside one’s door, the neighborhood they live in but often may not have really explored. Perhaps you walked by a site for many years but never really knew anything about it. Topics cover everything from waste management to the weather (very popular) to local industry and public works projects. Most of the courses involve a field trip.
Political/Governmental is the next category. World affairs, politics, whatever makes our government tick — people want to understand more about the complicated workings of the greatest nation on earth and its relationship to the rest of the world. Science/Math can sometimes make someone a bit fearful, remembering a perhaps less-than-pleasant experience when they
were in school. What is interesting, however, is that science and math seems to make much more sense when one is older.
Without a doubt, the ultimate “how-to” list makes up the Hands-on category. A wide variety of courses — from how to play Mah Jongg to looking up medical information on the computer to ballroom dancing — means everyone can find a new interest here.
Philosophy/Religion is intriguing because for some, as they grow older, a desire to get more in touch with their spiritual side occurs.
In an attempt to learn more about how to stretch our dollars, Finance is one area where knowledge equals power. Everyone gives their share to Uncle Sam, but one certainly doesn’t want to give more than necessary.
Ethnic Culture is yet another category of interest, given the varied backgrounds of the thousands upon thousands of lifelong learners. Immersing one’s self in another culture can make it seem as if you’ve escaped to another place and time.
As for Languages, French, Spanish and German are the most popular, but a Lifelong Learning Institute often has members who want to learn another language, like Arabic for instance. Unlike other countries that stress the importance of speaking another language, the United States does not place high value on this ability. Lifelong learners have an opportunity to help change that mindset.
Finally, there is the Miscellaneous category. These are topics that did not seem to fit elsewhere. From chivalry to period furniture to Flying on the Cheap, this is a very interesting, but short list.
The following list of courses offers something for everyone! It has been culled from the lists of dozens of LLIs across the country.
Today, more adults than ever are actively engaged in acquiring information and learning new skills. Our world changes by the minute and most of us are out of breath trying to keep up. This rapid change leads to the creation of new knowledge, and technology provides instant and ever-widening access to information. Consequently, interest in self-directed learning has exploded in recent years.
In addition to a spurt of books, articles and symposia, new programs for facilitating self-directed learning are found in universities, learning centers and on computer desktops. Today, self-directed learning is almost a revolution. It’s a revolution that involves a lot of people, alone and in groups because not all such learning takes place in isolation.
Learning groups, open-university programs, electronic networking and computer-assisted learning are examples of self- directed learning in the company of others. And so are lifelong learning centers. They are excellent examples of, and venues for such learning.
What all this means is that the future of Lifelong Learning Institutes appears quite exciting. The Baby Boomers, with their love of lifelong learning, have been retiring — and will continue to do so in droves. They are taking with them their lifelong interest in self-directed learning. Given that interest, they are looking for ways to help keep it alive. When they come knocking, invite them to walk through the door of a Lifelong Learning Institute. It’s the perfect solution.
And we are excited to help you share in the joy and enriching adventures that are a hallmark of our educational experiences. We welcome you!
A reminder: At any time during the start-up phases of your new institute, organizers may contact LLI Resource Network to discuss issues. There is no cost for this service. Once the new program has been developed, organizers will fill out an application and send it to the Network in order to be listed on the web site and begin taking advantage of the benefits of membership.
We look forward to hearing from you!