Reading novels, doing crossword puzzles, and playing word games are good brain exercises, but they mostly use skills you already have. Learning something new—writing poetry, say, or learning how to appreciate opera, or learning a new language—teaches your brain new functions.

In January and February 2024, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UMass Boston is offering free programs for prospective members 50 and older to flex new mental muscles and sample the OLLI experience. The winter session features eight films with a friendship theme, presented online each Tuesday morning followed by discussion time, along with workshops and talks on a variety of subjects.

Throughout the year, OLLI programming includes classroom courses, offered in person and on Zoom; group trips to theatre and opera performances; local walking tours; and more. OLLI members say that making new friends with shared interests is their favorite fringe benefit of participating in OLLI programs.