ElderCollege helps the 50-and-over crowd get learning

September is almost inseparable from the back-to-school buzz, but it’s not just young’uns hitting the books this season.

As ElderCollege co-ordinator Carol Mills explains, you’re never too old for school.

The non-profit society partners with the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), borrowing classrooms and the occasional instructor to provide a mini-college for those aged 50 and over.

The courses cover a broad range of topics; there’s a little something for everyone offered in bite-sized sessions, whether it’s watercolours or geography that falls in their wheelhouse.

The program has expanded in leaps and bounds since its inception—from eight courses to 23, and from 100 students to 500.

ElderCollege has appealed for many reasons, Mills says—first and foremost because learning never goes out of style.

“We call it lifelong learning,” she says. “It’s a way to keep people vibrant throughout their life.

“It becomes a part of your life—a part of what you do, and a part of how you learn about the world,” she continues. “That’s what makes more vibrant and interesting twilight years.”

Anyone over the age of 50 is eligible to sign up for ElderCollege, but Mills says they mostly see students in the 60 to 70 age range.

Part of getting older is keeping both brain and body active—and by making these kinds of courses a habit earlier on in life, Mills says elders stand a better chance of sticking with it and continuing to stretch their mind in new directions.

“It’s harder, I think, as a 70- or 80-year-old to all of a sudden say, ‘I think I’ll take a course.’” she explains. “But if you’ve been taking courses and enjoying them throughout your later middle-age, it becomes a habit.”

A full list of courses is available at They range between one and six sessions and in cost between $20 and $65.

And for those who aren’t sure where to start, Mills suggests a course called “Tapestry for Thought,” which features six different topics over the six sessions.

“The presenters speak about their passion—so it might be something about geography, or it might be music, or it might be Canadian history, but each week is something new and stimulating,” Mills explains. “From there, if you haven’t been taking courses, you can start to think about what interests you.”

Students must have an ElderCollege membership (which costs $12 and lasts for a year) to register for classes. Registration takes place starting at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Leisure Sports Centre (the old Ag Rec building) on Spadina. For more information, email or phone the ElderCollege general help line at 604-702-2611.

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