OLLI’s Friday Lecture Series is the subject of a story on USF’s main website, featuring an interview with Joseph McAuliffe. Here is a copy of the story.

By Mary Beth Erskine

TAMPA, Fla. (June 4, 2010) – With only the most caring of intentions and in the most loving of ways, Joseph McAuliffe vigorously reminds the senior adults who are members of USF’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) that they need to “use it or lose it.”

Their brains, that is.

And he has done his homework on neuroplasticity and synaptic reformation to prove his point.

The ongoing formation of new synapses, or connections, in the brain gives it plasticity – the ability to learn, remember and adapt, he said. It’s a process of reformation and rejuvenation that continues throughout life including into one’s “golden years.”

The clincher, however, is that the brain needs to be fed with new knowledge and fresh experiences in order to retain its amazing capacity and efficiency.

“If you want a healthy aging mind, you need to keep learning new things. And not just new things in areas you are already comfortable with, but totally new information in a wide variety of unfamiliar fields,” said McAuliffe. “The enemy of age is routines and ruts.”

And that’s why McAuliffe, who is the coordinator of programming for OLLI-USF, has developed a rich and diverse summer Friday Lecture Series. He has enlisted Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, as well as experts on music, architecture, medicine and law to help introduce interesting, new information and ideas.

The lectures are open to the more than 1,200 OLLI-USF members, as well as the general public. The lectures are free, but a $3 parking fee and advance registration are required.

While senior-targeted programs at USF date back to 1993, OLLI-USF was established in 2005 following an initial Osher Foundation grant. Today, in addition to the Friday Lecture Series, the institute comprises Learning in Retirement, which offers study groups in the arts, science and humanities, SeniorNet technology education courses, computer users’ support group, day trips, special events and socials.

“As part of our commitment to lifelong learning, we bring in a broad array of knowledgeable experts on a wide variety of topics,” said McAuliffe.

The key benefit of the lecture series, according to McAuliffe, is that it enables participants to learn about subjects to which they might not have had any previous exposure, thereby contributing to healthy brain function. Topics will range from the music of Louis Armstrong, the origins of gothic cathedrals and the contributions of African-Americans to Tampa’s development, to Medicaid and plastic surgery.

In addition, Mayor Iorio will be the featured speaker for a special presentation on mass transit issues facing Tampa and Hillsborough County, including the latest developments and proposals regarding light rail, bus transportation and other local transit-oriented issues. Iorio’s presentation is the only one that will take place in the middle of the week on Wednesday, June 16.

“Our members have a tremendous appetite for learning and the Friday Lecture Series feeds that appetite,” McAuliffe said.

“As I’m always telling them, you’re never too old to learn something new.”

For registration information and more details about any of the upcoming lectures or to register online, click here or call 813-974-2403, option 1, Mon.-Fri., 8:30 am – 4 pm.