Somerville’s Older Adults Never Stop Learning

by Janine Lotti

“Who knew there were so many citizens with different perspectives and wealth of information on topics old and new?”

This is what Ellen Ellis says when asked about her attendance at the “Foundations of Learning” lectures offered at the Somerville Council on Aging (COA). The series, which began in May of 2015, has introduced older adults to varied topics including the evolution of jazz, looking at space from the Hubble telescope, policy decisions after World War II, and life in pre- and post-divided Germany. COA Senior Project Manager Janine Lotti developed the program because she noticed that there was a craving for new educational experiences among many of Somerville’s older adults. “So many older adults we serve worked in jobs that required them to use their sharp social and intellectual skills every day,” says Lotti. “Why should they have to give up that type of stimulating environment just because they’ve retired?”

Lotti points to inspiration from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) at Tufts University, and other LLIs like it around the region. Their mission is to offer cultural and educational opportunities for older adults through lunchtime lectures, special-interest activities (book club, history club, etc.), special events, and more. Following the LLI model somewhat, Lotti looks for local subject matter experts willing to come and share their knowledge with Somerville’s older adults. The program is also similar to LLI in that there is a small fee to attend the presentations. Those interested in the Council on Aging’s “Foundations of Learning” lectures can pay $5 for each lecture, or they can purchase a “series” of 5 lectures for $20.

“The lecture series has been varied and of great interest. We never know, despite getting descriptive summaries ahead of time, what gems we will find each time,” continues Ellis. She talks about how she was surprised to learn about a large tent city German POW camp on Gettysburg’s Pickett’s Charge meadow. “Whoever had this idea?” said Ellis.

Lotti plans to continue the series for as long as there is material and interest, which, clearly, there is from Ellis and other attendees. “Please keep this series coming,” says Ellis.

If you would like more information about the series, or if you have an idea about a speaker or topic, please contact Lotti at (617) 625-6600, ext. 2300.


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