Directions for 21st Century Lifelong Learning Institutes: Elucidating Questions from Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Studies


  • Craig Allen Talmage Hobart & William Smith Colleges
  • Robert Jack Hansen Osher National Research Center
  • Richard C. Knopf Arizona State University
  • Steven P. Thaxton Osher National Research Center



Institutional Research, Lifelong Education, Older Adults, Adult Education, Age-Friendly Universities


The literature regarding lifelong learning is robust, while the literature on lifelong learning institutions, centers, and programs remain under-researched in comparison. This article draws insights from a specific network of lifelong learning institutes with a rich history and high rapport in the United States: the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) network. Sixty articles regarding OLLIs are catalogued and highlighted to elucidate twelve thematic areas and twelve questions for future research and practice. In particular, these themes are related to adult education, healthy aging, and educational gerontology. The article concludes by reflecting on trends in and needs for institutional research and practice.

Les publications portant sur l’éducation permanente sont nombreuses, contrairement à celles touchant les institutions, centres et programmes d’éducation permanente qui, en comparaison, demeurent généralement mal connus. Cet article recueille des idées d’un réseau d’instituts d’éducation permanente ayant un passé riche et de bons rapports aux États-Unis : le réseau Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Soixante articles portant sur OLLI ont été catalogués et analysés pour faire ressortir douze thèmes et douze questions pour la recherche et la pratique à l’avenir. Ces thèmes se rattachent à l’éducation des adultes, le vieillissement sain et la gérontologie éducative. L’article se termine par des réflexions sur des tendances et des besoins relatifs à la recherche et la pratique institutionnelles.

Mots clés : recherche institutionnelle, éducation permanente, ainés, éducation des adultes, universités adaptées aux personnes âgées

Author Biographies

Craig Allen Talmage, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

Dr. Craig Talmage serves as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. Entrepreneurial Studies is a new fast growing minor that officially started in the Spring of 2016. He teaches courses on economic principles, quantitative tools, social innovation, the history of entrepreneurship theory, and the senior capstone experience. He seeks to empower community members, faculty, staff and students through the development of knowledge regarding entrepreneurship and skills that match that knowledge. He completed his PhD in Community Resources and Development at Arizona State University (ASU). At ASU, he worked for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Partnership for Community Development, and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center. He still serves as a faculty associate for Arizona State University where he teaches Community Resilience to Emergency Management and Homeland Security students in the School of Public Affairs. He is actively involved in the Community Development Society, the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, and the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.

Robert Jack Hansen, Osher National Research Center

R. Jack Hansen is mostly retired from a career in research leadership, having served as the Deputy Center Director for Research of the NASA Ames Research Center and as Associate Director for the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. He still works with these organizations on a part-time basis. In addition, he has coauthored two books on the personal dimensions of life beyond full-time work and administered surveys of participants in the Osher Lifelong Learning Network with the National Resource Center for Osher Institutes. He has a B.S. degree from Stanford University and an Sc.D. degree from M.I.T.

Richard C. Knopf, Arizona State University

Dr. Richard C. Knopf serves as Director of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Arizona State University (OLLI at ASU). He is a Professor of Community Resources and Development at ASU, and also directs the ASU Partnership for Community Development. His expertise rests in advancing community quality of life by building innovative partnerships among businesses, government, non-profit and community service organizations. He has formulated a vision for OLLI at ASU that fuses adults 50 and over with the intellectual and cultural resources of Arizona State University, while providing meaningful pathways for civic engagement. Dr. Knopf also heads the Age Friendly University initiative at ASU, and serves on a multinational steering committee for introducing Age Friendly design principles to universities on a global scale. His primary research specialty is on the role of community formation in optimizing lifelong learning experiences for older adults. He holds an M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning and a Ph.D. in Environment and Sustainability from The University of Michigan—Ann Arbor.

Steven P. Thaxton, Osher National Research Center

Steve Thaxton was named Executive Director of the National Resource Center for Osher Institutes at Northwestern University in February 2015. He prepared for his original 33-year career in television management earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Later during graduate studies at the University of Southern Maine, he joined the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USM (OLLI)—the first OLLI formed in 2001. There, he was a member, volunteer and graduate assistant while finishing his M.S. in Adult and Higher Education.




How to Cite

Talmage, C. A., Hansen, R. J., Knopf, R. C., & Thaxton, S. P. (2018). Directions for 21st Century Lifelong Learning Institutes: Elucidating Questions from Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Studies. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 64(2), 109–125.