In the early 1980s, SFU and UBC inaugurated a policy of free registration for seniors who wished to enroll in regular courses.
Not long after this, some community colleges developed special programs for seniors in recognition of their particular needs, and non-profit societies were formed to specialize in education for this part of society. Education had changed from career training to lifestyle enrichment. In Mission, the Lifetime Learning Center was formed in 1986 and has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
As the 1900s unfolded and the country became involved in two world wars, more and more women filled the gaps in society that resulted from the men being in the armed forces. They learned more about business and management and contributed huge amounts of volunteer work. During the 1920s, “The Famous Five” women of Alberta spearheaded the political movement that make woman “persons” and made them powerful leaders in their communities, helping them survive the Depression and creating new services, especially hospitals. Libraries became an important educational resource in most communities as individuals craved more and more intellectual stimulation.
By the mid-1980s it was realized that retired people were craving this stimulation — what was not yet realized was that this craving came from a mental and physical need. Modern research has shown that lack of stimulation may result in increased deposits of destructive proteins which are a forerunner of Alzheimer’s disease. Similarly, lack of physical exercise can result in disabilities that cripple the aging body.
Now health and wellness programs have become an increasingly important part of Lifetime Learning. Osteofit is a specialty and mobility is restored through exercise and walking.
The stimulation and confidence that came with seniors’ programing changed their whole approach to living. One such woman who became involved with an early Canadian history series said with true excitement, “I have just learned that I am part of history.”
Perhaps this is what we all want in our older years — the feeling we are part of history and have the ability to create a legacy of inspiration and involvement in learning with brains that can still cope with ideas that span the past and the present, and look forward to the future.