Continuing Education targets seniors for lifelong learning

By Gordon Lambie

The efforts to revitalize Continuing Education at Bishop’s University have resulted, in part, in the development of an initiative called “The Senior Academy for Lifelong Learning.” Targeted for people aged 55 and older, the project will look at creating educational opportunities catered to the needs and interests of an aging population based on the feedback and suggestions of members of that population, under the leadership of veteran Canadian actor and director Wade Lynch, who has been hired by Bishop’s to serve as the program’s development officer for the next six months.

“One of the jobs I had in PEI was with what’s called the Young at Heart Professional Theatre Company for Seniors,” Lynch said. “One of the things we learned there was not to make any assumptions about the abilities or interests of seniors.”
Coming to his new position with the attitude of letting the prospective learners tell the school what they want to learn, Lynch explained that the program was developed specifically because the Office of Continuing Education was receiving feedback that it was not meeting the needs of local seniors.

“This whole initiative came out because there was a need that was expressed from the community,” the Development Officer said. “The experience just needs to be refined now.”
In order to help find out what local seniors need and where, the information needed to refine the program, the office has organized an inaugural overnight event at the Le President Hotel in Sherbrooke.

“This is the kickoff, from this we hope to gather information from the people who attend to guide us in actually making new programming,” Lynch said.

The initial program is built around courses on five basic themes: History, Current Events, Literature, Technology, and Health. These courses are built into the midst of an overnight stay in the hotel on the 16th of November combined with opportunities to socialize and eat meals together. Lynch called the gathering a “destination event for seniors” and said that there is room for about fifty participants to register altogether.

Though work right now is focused on making sure that the upcoming event takes place as planned, the Development officer said that the ConEd office has already received significant feedback about the ideas currently on the table. The suggestions range from shifting the timing of events to making the material more specific.

“I was amazed at the number of seniors who want to talk about being close to death,” Lynch said, adding, “one thing that we’ve really seen over the last few weeks is that seniors are very concerned about where future educational opportunities are going to be. We’re working on developing a program that will be portable

More than anything else, Lynch emphasized the importance of engaging in discussion before during and after the upcoming event takes place.

“Once the event is over I am going to follow up with every single attendee to see what worked and what didn’t.”

Those looking for more information about the work of the Continuing Education Office should call: 819 822-9670

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