Guest Blog: To live is to learn – A lifelong learning journey at the Centre

By Marta Owsik

Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death
~ Albert Einstein







Learning is the lifelong journey of acquiring knowledge or skills. It happens formally in schools and informally through life experiences, family and friends. In July 2015, lifelong learning was officially added as a fourth pillar of active aging to the World Health Organization’s Active Aging Policy Framework.

The Centre for Elder Research has a longstanding interest in lifelong learning and has worked on several funded research initiatives dating back to 2007. We recently completed an exploratory study for which we invited a select group of individuals to participate, as both learners and co-researchers, in 12 weekly sessions.

Participants came from very different backgrounds, were of different ages, at different stages and most did not know each other before the sessions began. Bringing together different perspectives and different experiences led to lively discussions and rich learning. Although Centre staff facilitated the sessions, they were relatively unstructured to allow the process to evolve organically.

First, the study group reviewed and discussed the literature on lifelong learning and came to a few conclusions:

  1. It is clear that engaging in learning is good for people as they age.
  2. While there are many lifelong learning opportunities available, many are formal programs that may not appeal to everyone.
  3. Older adults over the age of 75 appear to be quite neglected both in the literature and by existing lifelong learning opportunities.

The study participants decided that the major problem needing to be addressed was one of accessibility. Those aged 75+ may experience more barriers (external and internal) when it comes to actually accessing existing lifelong learning programs and many programs are not sensitive to a variety of needs, interests and learning styles.

So, study group developed a model for lifelong learning that is truly accessible for older adults of any age, including those age 75+. At its core, their model is one that is customizable, flexible and portable. As such, it can be designed to address an individual’s unique interests and needs, can accommodate a variety of learning styles and can be taken to where the learner is most comfortable, whether that be in their home or at the local library. The group believed that these features could overcome potential barriers and be inclusive for all types of learners.

This lifelong learning project was definitely a journey for the group, complete with detours, bumps and discoveries. Not only did we learn about the subject, we also learned about ourselves, each other, and group dynamics. It was interesting to see how important this subject was to the group members (who, by the way, had the best attendance records the Centre has ever seen!) and how flexible they were in their understanding of what learning is.

“A lot of what I’ve learned…” one participant explained “I didn’t think about it as learning at the time…but as part of living”. I think that sums up lifelong learning and this project quite nicely.

Marta Owsik works as a project coordinator at the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research.


Marketing for the Mature Consumer

PiggyBankWe do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.

Recently, we posted a story on our Facebook page that spread across the social network like wildfire having been shared 19,653 times. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. The story focuses on Rose, an 87-year-old college student who decided to go back to school to continue her education. It’s inspiring, showing us that it is never too late to learn or take part in something that may enrich your life.

This year marks the Sheridan Elder Research Centre’s 10-year anniversary. To celebrate, the Faculty of Continuing and Professional Studies is offering a free course at Sheridan College: Marketing to the Mature Consumer, one of six courses from Sheridan’s Mature Consumer Studies Certificate Program. Whether you are the targeted audience, or a business owner looking to take a new spin with your product, this course could help each of you analyze the market and see how it could change in the coming years.

Why should you be so concerned about marketing for the mature consumer? According to Alexis Abramson, a leading expert for the 50+ Baby Boomers, caregivers and Mature Adults, “the 50+ population is still a swiftly developing consumer market, and it’s hitting an all-time high in terms of global aging.” Abramson, whose article can be found on the HuffPost50 blog, emphasized that “they not only wield enormous purchasing power since they make the major decisions in their households, but according to ‘BOOM: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer’ these aging parents account for 80 per cent of the consumer goods market.”

So get involved, whether you are looking for an education or to take advantage of a growing target market. For more information please click on the flyer below.

Free Marketing Course

What defines the word "old"?

“Creative Aging is about possibilities, freeing ourselves of limiting beliefs about aging and embracing the reality that individuals continue to grow, learn and contribute to their communities throughout the life journey.”
-President’s Creative Challenge 2012/2013 – Sheridan College

Is age really just a number? Do we define our fate? Is our ability to complete a task, any kind of task, all in our head? Are we really our own worst enemy? These questions, along with many more, are being asked every day in our community. We are aging, and we are living longer. And as a result, we are constantly trying to find the answers as to why we are able to, and how we can continue to do so.
When you think of getting older, what do you picture? Finally being able to get your drivers license? Voting? Moving off to college or university? Getting married? Getting that promotion you always wanted? Retiring, then travelling the world? Or, sitting with family and reminiscing about when you were younger? Getting older brings us to events in our lives that wouldn’t necessarily be attainable unless we turned a significant age. And when we do reach that phase that marks our ability to participate in a task we were unable to do so before, we feel a sense of accomplishment. Yes, I did it!
Every second I write this post I am aging, every second you read it you are too. But there are some who are already at a significant age that suddenly has the world on its feet asking, “What are we going to do next?” According to Statistics Canada, “seniors are already the fastest-growing age group in Canada and by 2051, one-quarter of the population will be part of the 65+ club.”
And as a result, The Globe and Mail reports, that many people are starting to answer that question:
“Researchers in engineering and occupational therapy are teaming up to create senior-friendly vehicle designs so older Canadians can safely enjoy the independence of driving later in life. A pathology and molecular medicine expert is studying how eating probiotics can work as a defense against respiratory infections — a leading cause of death among seniors. A nursing professor is testing the effectiveness of a program that would teach seniors with diabetes how to self-manage their disease.”
Sheridan College is also doing it’s own part by introducing the President’s Creative Challenge 2012-13. This “provides a unique opportunity for Sheridan students, faculty, staff, administrators as well as external business/community representatives to examine this demographic shift through a creative lens.”
Sheridan wants to invite one and all to connect, get involved and propose innovative ideas and solutions to Creative Aging: Designing Communities for all Ages. Sheridan wants you to revolutionize and create, and express what you think will make a “fundamental change in society.” If you are a student, you can submit a project idea. Members of the community can participate by being mentors to these students.
Find out more information by clicking HERE, or like us on Facebook.


Event at SERC: Applied Research Job Fair

On March 30, over 30 students, faculty, and industry partners gathered in the SERC Internet Cafe to learn more about the many applied research positions available to students this summer. These positions are all funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) College and Community Innovation grant, which funds industry-led research to support small- to medium-sized businesses and increase opportunities to participate in research for both students and faculty at Sheridan. Susan Pratten, one of the faculty members involved in the research, created this collage of photos from the event.