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Lifelong Learners

July 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Success Story


Lifelong LearnersEugene Strauss is one of those rare cases: he’s a man who has a love affair with learning and believes in knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Greeting people with a sweet smile and gentle handshake, Strauss makes everyone feel instantly comfortable. What are his goals for the upcoming year as a student at Ryerson University? “To survive,” he laughs. Strauss is 87.

Born in 1925, his work experience is vast, ranging from waiting tables before the outbreak of WWII, to moving up the ranks with the Ontario government years later. Along the way, his thirst for education gave way to degrees in economics, public administration and psychology. “I wouldn’t have done anything much different. I have no serious regrets,” he says. One thing that keeps Strauss feeling vibrant in his elderly years is his constant curiosity about the world.

Life Institute, a 50-plus program at Ryerson University, has given seniors like Strauss the opportunity to satisfy their interests and stay mentally active. Unlike typical post-secondary education, Life Institute emphasizes student participation and has moderator-led sessions, which allow seniors to teach classes and engage with their peers. “Many of these people have backgrounds, histories and experiences that are equally as bright as any of the lecturers we would find,” says Sandra Kerr, director of Programs for 50+ at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University.

Taking non-credit courses, students like Strauss are self-motivated and don’t let age get in the way of learning. “These days, because of my hearing problem, it’s not quite as enjoyable as it was before, but when summer turns to fall, I will no doubt join other classes,” says Strauss. “It keeps your mind alert. It also gives you something to do, something more positive than watching television.” As one of the first members to enroll at the Life Institute over 20 years ago, Strauss has moderated a course several times called Politics, People and Other Issues. Conversations about current events around the world are stimulated during these sessions, and members decide on what topics they want to highlight. “It’s more informational, more participatory,” explains Strauss, who spends his free time chatting online with friends.

Rosemary Graydon, a free-spirited 86-year-old actress, is also taking advantage of lifelong learning programs to keep her mind and body energized. “It really does make you look forward to the next day. I get out of bed and I stand at the window and I say, ‘Another great day! What am I going to do?’” An unexpected response from a widow living alone, Graydon has an enthusiasm for life that is contagious. She is a member of Act II Studio, a drama school for people over 50, and was recently cast in a play called Spychasers, a production that ran at The Toronto Fringe Festival.

There are many options for the lifelong learner – the one whose mind is forever young.

With minimal fees, mature students like Strauss and Graydon can educate themselves on topics of interest. People 60-years-of-age and older can also enroll in regular undergraduate courses at many universities across the country and acquire credits without paying tuition. In the process of writing his first fictional novel, Strauss is a believer in the power of knowledge. “Anything one learns allows one to understand the world better and enriches one’s life.”


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