By Matthew Gretz
The capacity to encode, retain and recollect memories is fundamental to living a meaningful life. Our memories are preserved to provide us with some semblance of a cohesive past. Yet, memory is selective, effectively storing information about the birth of a child or the process of moving to a new city with stark clarity. These memories last forever and are formational in establishing who we are and how we influence the world. However, day-to-day memories are often forgotten and, if preserved, take effort to recollect. This combination of remembered and forgotten information is the current focus of research projects being conducted at OLLI.
Before I continue, let me introduce myself. My name is Matthew Gretz. I am a graduate student in the Brain and Behavior Doctoral Program at Southern Miss. I work in the Memory, Attentional Control and Aging Lab which is directed by Dr. Mark Huff. I attended Xavier University, completing degrees in psychology and philosophy. I am happy to now be a part of the OLLI community in this research capacity.
Two memory assessment studies are currently being offered. In the first study (Memory for Visual Information), individuals are presented with a series of videos and are asked to recall what they remember from those videos. In the second study (Detecting Errors in Episodic Memory), individuals are asked to read a fictional story and recall information from that story. In both of these studies, individuals take various personality assessments as well, which give us an understanding of how individual characteristics impact memory.
The studies will continue through next semester (and possibly through the summer). Ashley, a fellow researcher, and I need to collect data from 108 participants for our respective experiments. Plus, there will probably be more studies offered at OLLI as we get additional assessments off the ground and running.
If you are interested in participating in this research, please feel free to sign up by accessing the study link in the OLLI weekly update. You are also more than welcome to call me, and I'll be happy to talk with you about these research studies. Thank you for your consideration!
Peace, Matthew Gretz 601-266-5411 email@example.com
By Sandra Bender
I have not played a piano for over thirty years after many years of lessons from a variety of teachers. When I saw that OLLI was offering a group piano class, "More Piano Fun for Adults," it was time to begin again. It has been one of my best decisions. Our teacher Su Su Lu is talented, kind and beautiful. We began at the beginning, learning notes with flashcards. Although I was an experienced pianist, flashcards were a new thing. I discovered I was insecure with notes at the ends of the music staffs—those lines and spaces. Su Su taught us to orient our thinking around the treble and bass staffs' C notes, including the high and low Cs. With Cs as home base, it was easy to pick up the other notes quickly. We also learned how to read rhythm notation the easy way—by clapping and even dancing.
Su Su has ingenious intuition about what music each of us needs to learn next—challenging but not too difficult and suited to our musical styles. We come into class playing notes on the piano and with her coaching, the notes are transformed into beautiful music. She uses images of nature, our breath, movement, and singing to illustrate the concept of the songs we play so that our simple songs become art. I have noticed other participants in our class are making similar progress. All of us are crazy about Su Su.
With Su Su's good nature and the support of other classmates, my performance anxiety is being transformed into pleasure produced by the music. Su Su has suggested a recital to show friends and family what we have learned. YIKES!
Regina Ueltschey said of the "Cards, Cards and more Cards" seminar she attended at Gulf Park, "This was so much fun and relaxing. I love my finished cards. My friends have to join me next time."
The Yoga Flow class in Hattiesburg brought this praise from Lida McDowell, "I think it is most wondrous. Michelle does an excellent job of working with both the group and individuals on breathing, positions and relaxing. And it's great we have almost as many men as women."
Ken Smith commented about Dr. Marvin Kendrick's class on Arabic Literature—listed as Islamic Literature in the Course Guide. "Dr. Kendrick is very interesting and knowledgeable about so many things. In his class I learned about Arabic literature both before and after the time of the prophet Mohammed and perspectives of how Arabs think and feel about things. I just like listening to him talk."
By Pam Milloy
Speaking of new beginnings, several OLLI members embraced a new form of communication through learning the art of calligraphy. Calligraphy as we know it in the west dates back to first-century Roman times. Calligraphy is a visual art related to writing and is defined as the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner. In so doing, it portrays beauty. Although calligraphy can be produced using a brush, the OLLI class focused on learning this art form through the use of dipped ink and a calligraphy oblique pen holder. The seminar was taught in two sessions. Participants received a workbook with reproducible practice pages, an oblique pen holder, a nib and an inkwell containing ink.
Susan Graham, an accomplished young local artist, facilitated the class. Susan readily admits that art has been her passion her entire life. Even now, when she is not working at Forrest General Healthcare Foundation or teaching classes in calligraphy, she is painting and is the owner/artist of Susan Graham Art.
Susan's love for calligraphy was apparent as she easily guided the class by demonstration using the whiteboard and markers. The class learned downstrokes, upstrokes and basic shapes for creating letters. Also the importance of line placement for the letter through ascender, waistline, baseline and descender was emphasized. The letters of the alphabet were divided into groups that involved using similar strokes. Class participants were guided through lower case, upper case and numbers through hands-on instruction and individual practice.
Those of us who took the class had a wonderful experience and gained an even deeper appreciation of this unique creative art form. According to the teacher, all it takes is lots of practice.
By Nicole Scavo (Graduate student facilitator)
Some OLLI members journeyed into the world of the insects around us. On the journey, some insect myths were busted—spiders aren't insects! And ladybugs belong to the beetle family! The group took a walk outside to look for common Mississippi insects and tried to stump their teachers with kissing bugs, bumblebees, and butterflies. The seminar included a biomonitoring assessment of the OLLI garden pond with giant water bugs and predacious diving beetles found among the watery vegetation. Stream biomonitoring assesses the quality of water and habitat available to stream animals by looking at the abundance and diversity of invertebrates, such as insects and snails. After the assessment, the pond was categorized as fair habitat. This diagnosis may have underestimated the pond's health since the assessment was designed for streams which tend to have more microhabitats available and therefore more diverse insect communities.
Some of the more adventurous participants dived into entomophagy—the practice of eating insects as a source of protein or nutrition. Though this concept is foreign and frowned upon in the U.S., entomophagy is common in many parts of the world. In countries where food resources are scarce, insects provide an excellent alternative to malnutrition and starvation. Crickets, a common food source, are easy to rear, high in protein, low in fat and can survive off vegetable and fruit peelings. Cricket flour cupcakes topped with toffee-flavored mealworms were tasted by the brave of heart at the seminar. A delicious treat with an extra hint of protein.
Lastly, participants learned a few tips for dealing with the insects in their lives. If you get stung by a honey bee, you should scrape the stinger and venom pouch off with your nail. Squeezing the pouch at the end of the stinger will result in more venom injected into your skin and possibly a more severe reaction to the sting. If bitten by a medically important insect or relative, save the specimen to bring to the doctor. If you bring the spider that bit you, the doctor will know just how to treat your bite. Additionally, keep those lady bugs around in your garden. They eat the aphids and other pests that are destroying your flowers and vegetables.
Southern Miss's OLLI offered our books at the 2018 Mississippi Book Festival. One of our "salesmen" reported, "We didn't sell many books, but we talked to a lot of people about OLLI."