The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Virginia is launching its 18th year of classes this fall.

The institute, which also has more than 100 sister “OLLI”s across the country, offers college-level courses and social events for seniors.

“There’s a lot for older adults and for continuing education in Charlottesville, but we have a niche in that many of our offerings are academic as well as highly social,” said Kara West, director of Charlottesville’s OLLI.

The institute is member-directed and member-only. It originally was founded in Charlottesville as the Jefferson Institute for Lifelong Learning. In 2007, JILL received a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation and changed its name to OLLI.

The share of those 65 and older in the state is expected to increase from 12% in 2010 to 18% in 2030, fueled by an aging baby-boomer generation and declining birth rates, according to the Weldon Cooper Center at UVa.

As the number of older adults increases in Central Virginia, West said, so has demand for OLLI’s offerings, particularly from people who led academic, legal or government careers elsewhere in the country and retired locally.

“We reflect the general population growth here and the changing demographics,” West said.

At a recent open house, course instructors introduced new and prospective members to classes planned for the fall semester. Courses range from a survey of American Gospel music to a study of Greek historian Thucydides to a discussion of astronomical threats to Earth.

Overall, OLLI will offer 89 classes this semester.

Members must pay a $75 fee each semester, and course fees average about $50. For more information or to register, visit

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Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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