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FairfaxEducationQ&A: Lifetime Learning Institute looks to the future

Q&A: Lifetime Learning Institute looks to the future

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The Lifetime Learning Institute of Northern Virginia (LLI/NOVA), a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization affiliated with the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College, has persevered through the pandemic in its quest to provide stimulating educational and cultural programming for Northern Virginians age 50 and older.

COVID has caused the organization to make some shifts – moving to online courses and reducing its travel programs and other in-person gatherings. But with pandemic morphing (possibly) from pandemic to endemic, leaders of the organization are looking at how they will approach a post-pandemic world.

The Sun Gazette recently checked in with the leadership to see where things stand now, and what the future might hold.

Is there a “typical” LLI member, and what draws individuals to the organization?


LLI members are curious about the world. They want to continue learning and challenging themselves beside other like-minded adults. Some join for the educational opportunities, some for the social aspects (travel, cultural excursions and special-interest groups), and some for all of the benefits we offer.

Our three online course catalogs per year contain 130 stimulating classes (mostly single-session), all included in the modest annual membership fee of $110. See our current offerings at llinova.org.

How has the pandemic impacted the organization, and what do you think the post-pandemic era might hold?

The pandemic has not stopped LLI from being active, creative, engaged and vibrant. The pandemic has made LLI pivot to online sessions (Zoom), which have enabled us to broaden our possibilities for presenters. Classes and lectures no longer need to be canceled due to bad weather, and can be held at night (when the presenter is in another time zone, for example).

We anticipate continuing to offer a mixture of in-person and online classes. Additionally, we are reconstituting our study/travel committee that has been inactive for the past two years. Participating in foreign and domestic forays has provided many of our members with some of their fondest memories with LLI/NOVA.

What selection criteria are used to determine courses and other programs?

Our classes are taught by volunteers, many of whom are college professors or other experts in their fields. We select classes based on suggestions from members and presenters and their expected appeal to our audience.

LLI/NOVA classes cover many different topics, including but not limited to history, foreign affairs, science, financial and retirement planning, political science, government, technology, philosophy, psychology, religion, music, art, poetry and personal development.

While we generally avoid topics that are politically biased or might be offensive to our members, we will present topics that might be controversial as long as the content is fair, fact-based and respectful of alternative viewpoints. We rarely get proposals for classes that violate our standards.

Do you find that seniors are naturally inquisitive and enjoy companionship, and how does the organization support them?

Yes! Seniors are as naturally inquisitive and social as they were when they were younger. We support each other by providing a wide variety of classes and through our monthly forum, a 60-minute lecture combined with opportunities to meet and mingle with other members and their guests.

We also offer a wide variety of special-interest groups, such as bridge, book clubs, tabletop games, finance, foodies and photography.

Finally, we have active local travel and cultural excursions programs – visits to local museums, the theater and nature preserves – and are re-establishing our travel program as the pandemic appears to be waning. Over our 25-plus years, we have traveled to eastern and western Europe, North and South America and Asia.

How can members maximize the value they get from the organization?

Members can maximize their value by participating in all that we offer. Members may sign up for as many classes as desired, attend our monthly forums, join our special-interest groups, attend our annual winter luncheon, participate in cultural excursions and travel with us.

Further, since we are a non-profit, member-run organization, they can volunteer their time and talent on any of our 12 committees. At only $110 per year, LLI is a great value!

What would your 30-second “elevator speech” be for those who might have interest but need a little convincing to become a member?

There are many opportunities in Northern Virginia to keep mentally active, but few combine the benefits of learning, new friendships, regional excursions, travel and special interests. Lifetime Learning Institute of Northern Virginia offers all this and more to adults aged 50 or more for a nominal annual fee of $110.

Come check us out at llinova.org to learn more about us and to attend a free monthly forum!

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