How UMass Boston’s Lifelong Learning Program for Older Adults Adapted to the Age of COVID-19

James HamelbrechtThe coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the ways education takes place at all levels and institutions, including the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UMass Boston. OLLI, which serves an older student population with an elevated COVID-19 risk, responded quickly to the virus early in its spring semester.

 The Gerontology Institute Blog recently talked with James Hermelbracht, the director of UMass Boston’s OLLI program, about the decisions that were made, what actually happened in the spring and how that experience is shaping plans for the fall semester and beyond. The following transcript is edited for space and clarity.

Q: Let’s start by describing how the COVID-19 pandemic completely upended plans for the spring OLLI semester.

A: It played out on several levels. Things were changing so quickly as soon as the semester started. We were already hearing a few members say, “Maybe not this semester.” They were seeing the news and felt unsure about being in a classroom or taking public transportation. We were three days into our spring semester when the decision was made to first postpone. That was mid-March and we postponed until April 1. But it became very clear that our members, being in the high-risk category for age, were not that enthusiastic about coming back. We decided to cancel or postpone our entire spring semester just a few days prior to the university making the decision that everything would become remote. Continue reading