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How does your OLLI attract people 50 years and older who are still working?

Posted on November 5th, 2010 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Elena Marciano, OLLI at the University of the Pacific, Asks OLLI:

At the University of the Pacific OLLI we offer classes during the week from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm, a time frame that does not well serve those who are working. We recently added a Monday evening class that was well attended, and a Saturday class that was not. How does your OLLI attract people 50 years and older who are still working?

Does your OLLI market to specific groups at your affiliated college or university, such as parents of local students who attend the college, alumni, or emeriti? If so, do you work with the Registrar’s office or another campus office for mailing lists?

How do you connect with these groups?

7 Responses to “How does your OLLI attract people 50 years and older who are still working?”

  1. In fall 2010 we launched “OLLI After Five” for those who are still working or who may have other commitments during the day. We tag our ‘after five’ classes with an icon developed by our school marketing department. The ‘after five’ classes this fall have been very well attended. Our mailing list each semester includes all Richmond area alums (within about an hour or less drive of campus) of UR from a list provided by our UR Advancement services.

  2. We offer half of our courses in the evening between 4PM-8PM. We send out almost 10,000 course catalogs within a thirty mile radius using a purchased mailing list tailored to 50-74 yrs. Our current OLLI members do a tremendous job of spreading the word to their friends and family…and sometimes strangers. We believe we have to have a balance in our cirriculum to attract the those who are still working. Start small with an extensive wine tasting or gourmet cooking class (or pottery, yoga, T’ai Chi, Zuma)in the evenings interspersed with 1 or 2 history, literature or a spiritual classes. Get them into “the fold” and the rest will come.

  3. In the spring, we recruited two “Boomers” to our Leadership Council and have made a calculated effort all year to engage this group. Their feedback and that collected through member surveys has been telling. We now offer about a third of our classes and member events during evening or weekend hours and have expanded community outreach to include professional and civic groups which include younger participants. This year we’ve also had a presence at community events, fairs and festivals where the focus is more health and/or arts oriented than “Senior/Retirement” focused. As always, our best source of new members has been our satisfied current members. “Register a friend” and receive a free OLLI class has been very popular this past year.

  4. Elana, Thanks for opening up this juicy can of worms! We have been thinking/talking/taking baby steps related to this issue in the past 2ish years. Thinking and actions to date:

    ** Per Maralie’s comment, “satisfied members” are a great resource. Frankly, this is the only actual action we’ve taken so far - toward the end of each semester we send an email to our members and ask them to refer friends, relatives… This is effective in terms of numbers. Anecdotally, our newer members this year seem younger - we are just beginning to dig into our data and compare with past years.

    ** Our plan - while we’ve worked “loosely” with our Alum Relations/Development Office over the years (they include us in their online newletter, our program, extra programs) this year we are beginning a new phase in which we do this more systematically and seriously. “This” means - targeting and reaching out to local alum and parents of alum. It’s the first time our colleagues in these departments are as interested in doing this as we are - building these relationships is a big deal (we all know that) and we have had/are having some significant changes at the top of our univeristy.

    ** Regarding programming: We have had some of the ideas others have expressed and only started to develop/implement them - again - this year we will be piloting others. Examples: 1) We did a one day Writing Workshop on a Saturday last May. It was well attended and people wanted more. It brought in a couple of new boomer members. 2) One of our course leaders (a star) offered to do evening courses for us in warm months to attract the working folks - like you - I think this is a fabulous potential market - for us and for them. 3) And weekends.

    Look forward to seeing what other OLLIs have to say. Thanks.

  5. #5 by: Susan Morrow

    One email marketing technique worked very well for us. We sent an email to all our current members and asked them to forward it to any working people they knew between the ages of 50 and 65 who might be interested. The email announced our program expansion to Thursday evening and Saturday morning. When classes began, we asked students how they heard about OLLI. Many referred to the email. They felt they were getting invited by a friend.
    Susan Morrow
    University of Southern Maine

  6. #6 by Mike Stover
    California State University, Fullerton

    The OLLI-Cal State Fullerton (OLLI-CSUF) program for pre- and recent retirees relies on a special curriculum subcommittee to organize appropriate classes. Classes are offered either on a “free and open to the public” or “member only” basis. The subcommittee is entitled, “Transitions in Retirement” (TiR) and its curriculum can be accessed at our website at

    Eleven TiR programs are offered in the fall 2010 semester. TiR’s flagship program is a 12-class series called “Transitions in Retirement Essentials,” which is offered during the fall and spring semesters at the CSUF Fullerton campus. An example would be: “Social Security Essentials.” The newest programs in the TiR curriculum are two series first offered this fall—a program on creativity entitled, “Mind, Body, and Spirit Series: A Journey to a Healthy Life” and a discussion group entitled, “Keys in Retirement. ”

    The classes are marketed through our website, news releases, a Facebook page (type “Transitions in Retirement” in the Facebook search engine), a slick four-color brochure entitled “Free programs for active adults ages 50+” and our 100-page OLLI-CSUF course catalog. The publications are set out at public places such as libraries, community centers and medical facilities. An outreach effort with major area employers is our latest marketing initiatives.

    Our President Dave Musante describes the TiR effort thusly: “Our OLLI has made wonderful progress in attracting recent retirees and those about to retire with our TIR programs.” By making many of these classes open to the public, it has really planted seeds and paid dividends in increased member enrollment.

  7. Several classes are offered in the evening or on Saturdays. Such classes are offered only off-campus since members don’t like traveling to the big, bad campus after dark. The evening and Saturday classes are very successful. Day classes are 10-12 and 1-3.

    Marketing to special groups: we have a formal relationship with the University alumni and Friends Association whereby access to OLLI classes is offered to their members, and membership in the Alumni and Friends Association is offered at a discount to OLLI members. When we have classes at certain off-campus venues (e.g., A Womans Club and a retirement community)that do not charge rent, we give reduced membership rates to their members and residents.

    We have been “adopted” by the Recreation and Parks Districts of the two largest cities in the county. They consider our courses as part of their outreach programs. Both Districts are especially targeting boomers, and are posing our courses as part of their services to boomers and seniors.

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