Lifelong learning is quickly becoming more accessible to Canadian seniors every year. Not only does it yield many physical health benefits, including keeping the brain sharp, but it has also been shown to improve mental health and well-being, and socialization. Further education can be great for those looking to expand existing knowledge, learn new skills, socialize, or even pursue another career to supplement their retirement income. You or your loved ones may consider enrolling in some of Canada’s various educational offerings, tailored to seniors and those living in active senior communities. Here is an overview of some of the best educational programs for seniors across Canada.
Education By Province
Learning doesn’t come with age restrictions, and many post-secondary institutions across Canada have established specific programs targeted towards senior citizens. In fact, many of these universities and colleges now offer free (or significantly reduced) tuition to those who meet the senior age requirements.
In Ontario, for example, recent changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) have made tuition exemptions for mature students, who don’t currently have a post-secondary degree and whose family income is less than $50,000 per year. There is also a host of specific institutions, such as the University of Toronto’s Innis College, The University of Western
Ontario, the University of British Columbia and the University of Manitoba who offer programs to senior citizens.
Innis College at the University of Toronto has been home to the Later Life Learning (LLL) program since 1981. Since its inception, the non-profit education program hosts lecture series for retirees. President of Innis College’s LLL, Merle McMurray, notes that much of the appreciation she sees from students comes from the ability to hear and discuss a variety of topics:
“I’ve been involved at Later Life Learning since the Fall of 2001,” says McMurray, “and I would say one of the things I’ve noticed is—we all like to travel, or like to have new experiences. There’s no exams or papers. One lecture series in the Fall has Ken Greenberg as one of the lecturers. Ken is an Architect and Urban Designer . . . we have a lecture on documentaries. On Friday mornings, we’ll have a series on religion. On Friday afternoons, we’ll have a series on Duke Ellington. We try to give students a choice. It’s not just an academic focus, it’s enjoyment as well.”
Of course, each province and each university is different and there’s no current national organization that standardizes senior education. Virtually all programs and educational opportunities are available to mature students but some may require certain pre-requisities. It’s important to note that if you or your loved ones are interested in enrolling in a specific school, it’s best to check out their website, phone them or even visit in-person to get a better sense of what they have to offer.
Online learning has proven especially beneficial for seniors who may be limited in their ability to travel to a classroom because of mobility, access to transportation or because they live in a rural setting. Many post-secondary institutions offer online courses, and their conditions for enrollment are typically similar to those traditional, in-school enrollment. Of course, it’s best to get in touch with the school, or the specific department in which you’re interested directly to get all the pertinent information you need. It’s worth looking into some of your local schools to inquire into whether they offer a similar program, as well as to request more information about enrolling in any of their online courses.
Perhaps one of the most significant advances within the realm of experiential learning is the advent and mainstream use of Virtual Reality (VR). While often associated with the fast-paced, over-stimulated world of younger generations, there have been countless opportunities to prove the health benefits of VR to seniors. Using VR can greatly assist seniors with mobility issues to provide them with experiences they may not otherwise be able to experience, such as a walk around their neighbourhood—or travel to a foreign city.
VR has also proven an active distraction to assist with pain management, as well as an effective tool for socialization whereby various members of a retirement community can communicate through VR headsets and bond over a shared experience. Afterall, arguably the best and most effective kind of experiential learning is one that enables participants to be as involved as possible.
While we’ve listed a number of lifelong learning avenues, ultimately you and your loved ones will find a program (or programs) that best suit your interests and needs. Ensure to get in touch with a variety of post-secondary institutions to find out more about their educational offerings for seniors and work with your loved ones to make a decision that’s best for all those involved. It’s also important to remember that much of life’s learning happens outside of a classroom. Finding the right active retirement community can make all the difference in your or your loved one’s life, as many of these communities offer their own educational and learning opportunities.
Visit and get in touch with Seasons Retirement Communities online, in-person or by phone to see what they have to offer.