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Mary Yule believes you can never have too much information. That's one reason she has been taking university courses for the past 17 years. If you think that would make her one of the oldest kids in the class at Toronto's York University, you'd be right. Mary is 86.
She's one of a growing number of active seniors who have discovered the joys and benefits of lifelong learning. The program Mary is enrolled in is called Living and Learning in Retirement and it has been a rewarding experience for the former registered nurse. "You cover a myriad of subjects—opera, art, music, medical matters, architecture, you name it," she says. There's a waiting list to get into the popular program, which is open to people age 55 and up. A few students, she reports, are in their 90s.
Mary has had plenty of support from friends at the Delmanor Wynford in mid-town Toronto.
"There are some retired university professors who live here—a very interesting group," she says. "One was a professor of physics. He has written three books—I've read two of them."
Any program that encourages seniors to sharpen their cognitive skills is a good one, says Dr. Guy Proulx, a professor at York University's Glendon College and an expert in the field of geriatrics, cognitive aging and rehabilitation. "Aging is not all about losing cognitive function," he says. "It could be the best time of your life." Don't have a previous university degree? No problem, says Proulx. "Some seniors are just curious as hell. They're more motivated than the students."
"The brain thrives on mental activity. The worst thing you can do to a human is put them in solitary confinement."— Dr. Sharon Cohen, Director of the Toronto Memory Program
Proulx notes that the concept of retirement living has changed radically in recent years. Seniors are living longer, planning sooner and demanding more from retirement communities and academic institutions. Places that encourage and provide access to senior learning are becoming a priority.
One such place is the Delmanor Wynford, where Mary raves about the staff and facilities. There are computers on site, but Mary's one step ahead as usual. "I'm buying an iPad," she says.
This is one of a series of articles detailing seven pillars of a fulfilling retirement. Six other articles discuss other critical aspects of an ideal retirement including the following: