Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Aging: Enlarging the Frame

Written by Ellen C. Boone, PhD, Chair, Potpourri 2020 Committee

Yes, as Galucia, Morrow-Howell, and Swinford have written, the coverage of COVID-19 does distort perceptions of the older adult population, especially the 95 percent who do not reside in nursing homes. To counter this distortion, I composed the following lines, with the intention of enlarging the frame to include the lives of the people I know:

2020 Grandma

Grandmas of yore may have sat there rocking

Contentedly knitting Grandpa’s stockings

But these days when Grandma rocks,

It’s not about dear Grandpa’s socks!

No, she delights in swing or samba

Or, with Grandpa, a sensuous rhumba!

(One day a week she joins in zumba.)

In lieu of succumbing to Covid gloom.

She learns to host a lively zoom

That focuses on a range of topics

From climate change to fiber optics.

Added to her many tasks

You just might find her making masks.

Learning and growing offer sources of pleasure –

Each day, for her, holds some new treasure.

These verses present a snapshot of some of the wide-ranging activities that members of Washington University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) regularly pursue. When not taking a class, these vibrant men and women may be leading one.  Although some members have continued to work well into their 70s, many others have elected to volunteer in a variety of community settings. When not actively engaged in nurturing their own grandchildren, they’re apt to be tutoring children from more limited circumstances. There are those who march for causes or pass out sandwiches to the city’s homeless, those who engage in efforts to support immigrants, and those whose volunteering ranges from soup kitchens to the zoo.

As for creativity, numerous OLLI students write plays or fiction or memoirs. Others distill their experiences into lines of poetry or express themselves through visual arts. Many of these creative endeavors are captured in a newly published book that was conceived as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the lifelong learning program at Washington University (now known as OLLI). Potpourri 2020 features the memoirs, fiction, poetry, art and photography of 75 OLLI members. Readers will discover that the passion and creativity of senior adults are mirrored in its pages.

For more information about the book, Potpourri 2020, please email