How To Keep Your Synapses Snapping

How To Keep Your Synapses Snapping

Some years back there came a time when I no longer had to endure 9 to 6 labors. After wife Merle and I sold our public relations agency, I was an unfettered master of my destiny!

Being a few years into senior-dom, I started to pay attention to a wide range of literature that provides dire warnings I must stay mentally alert after retirement to avoid cognitive decline. I solved that challenge for about a decade by producing and hosting a Twin Cities cable TV show. That kept me excessively alert.

O.K., post-TV show, what was next for mentally stimulating activities? The cognition- sustaining literature abounds with suggestions such as reading, writing, doing puzzles, contributing to group discussions, and playing games or music.

Additionally, Mayo Clinic has a new, 2013 published book, “Mayo Clinic on Healthy Aging”. It recommends continuing education classes, which happens to be my “keep the-synapses-snapping” choice. Once I left my TV career I decided I would return to some sort of classroom setting. I was interested in substantive courses, but no threatening, in-depth homework or tests. Fortunately this has not been a problem because my criteria are readily met by a Twin Cities and national study program that does not require assignments or grades. The local catalogue states that “people join for the intellectual challenge of the courses.”

You are perhaps aware of this study program, but since the definitive title is elusive, I will repeat it here. It is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Since 2001, West Coast philanthropist Bernard Osher has made grants from his foundation to launch OLLI programs at over 120 universities and colleges in 49 states, including the University of Minnesota.

Participation is remarkably easy. The current catalogue includes over 40 class locations throughout the Twin Cities and 110 courses. You may find yourself in a church or synagogue community room, a college building setting, an art museum, a civic center or even the backstage of a local theatre.

It is difficult to define the extensive scope of the catalogue offerings. The following are three out of the 110 fall courses, which represent a valiant effort to show the remarkable course diversity.


“Join this stimulating, enriching and enjoyable discussion of the classics. We will read selections from authors including Reinhold Niebuhr, Jean Paul Sartre, Richard Wright , Eudora Welty, Doris Lessing and Simone Weil.” The lecturer is a retired University of Minnesota English professor.


“This course will cover simple techniques for memorizing things you want to remember. By participating in this interactive presentation you will understand how the synapses in your brain are working and you will learn to use your brain   more efficiently.” The lecturer is a teacher, speaker, entrepreneur, “and now happily retired.”


“This course presents what we know about the universe: its past, present and future. We will take a conceptual approach to understanding what and how we know about the big bang, inflation, expansion, dark matter, dark energy and the formation of galaxies. Curiosity is required; math is not.” The lecturer is the retired University of Minnesota Renier Chair of Technological Leadership.

DETAILS:  Class schedules are divided into four seasons, fall, winter, spring and summer, ranging in time periods from 6 to 8 weeks, with once a week classes, usually 90 minutes in duration. The cost is $210 for the year, and you can take an unlimited number of courses.

Interested? Here is the address etc. to receive a fall catalogue.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Twin City office and contact info:

250 McNamara Learning Center

200 Oak Street N.E.


[email protected]

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