35 Ways to Rein­vent Your Ca­reer and Ful­fil Life­long Pas­sions

The case for con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Kim Honey

In the cur­rent wave of sec­ond-act cul­ture, con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion has seen a surge in pop­u­lar­ity, and the pros are legion – from bet­ter job op­por­tu­ni­ties to ful­fill­ing life­long pas­sions. But there are cons, too, and as in any­thing that re­quires a cash in­vest­ment, it’s buyer be­ware. Here we present per­sonal suc­cess sto­ries, a roundup of the best cour­ses and a list of em­ploy­ment ar­eas – cur­rent and fu­ture – that are ac­tu­ally hir­ing!

DON­ALD BAKER used to own and op­er­ate small busi­nesses. Now he plays Santa Claus on the big screen. At 74, the Toronto en­tre­pre­neur re­cently wrapped a Cana­dian fea­ture film with a Christ­mas theme, and he’s also di­rect­ing two 10-minute plays for the­atre fes­ti­vals.

While Baker acted in high school and univer­sity pro­duc­tions, he didn’t take his first les­son – at Ry­er­son Univer­sity’s Estelle Craig Act II Stu­dio – un­til he was 66. At his side was his part­ner, Cathy Shilton, who, as a teen, wanted to run away to Hol­ly­wood to be a star. Her fa­ther sent her to board­ing school in­stead.

Now Shilton is an ac­tor-play­wright while Baker is an ac­tor-di­rec­tor with sev­eral cred­its on his re­sume, in­clud­ing a turn as no­to­ri­ous mu­sic mogul Phil Spec­tor in a Hol­ly­wood Homi­cide Un­cov­ered episode.

Though it’s not a new ca­reer, he does call it his “sec­ond act.” And wrapped up in that is one of the prime mo­ti­va­tions com­mon to older adult ed­u­ca­tion. “Along with the fun, it’s a real chal­lenge, it’s a new ex­pe­ri­ence and it keeps me

young,” he says.

At the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba in Win­nipeg, pro­fes­sor Bill Kops has been study­ing older adult ed­u­ca­tion for more than 10 years. His pre­vi­ous re­search has shown older stu­dents take non-credit cour­ses for the sake of learn­ing, for so­cial rea­sons and to keep the brain sharp. Kops says the health ben­e­fits of learn­ing are legion. “Ac­tive bod­ies and ac­tive minds lead to healthy peo­ple, whether they’re young or old.”

But his 2016 re­search into how and why uni­ver­si­ties par­tic­i­pate in older adult ed­u­ca­tion is eye-open­ing. Just 18 of 50 English uni­ver­si­ties sur­veyed by Kops, all mem­bers of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Univer­sity Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion, had any older adult pro­gram­ming.

Cour­ses are typ­i­cally of­fered through con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ments, where costs are al­most al­ways cov­ered by tu­ition be­cause there is no gov­ern­ment fund­ing for stu­dents in non-credit cour­ses. The fees are low so se­niors can af­ford them, but these cour­ses are of­ten the first to be cut when bud­gets tighten be­cause they bring in less money.

“Con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion units have changed or­ga­ni­za­tion­ally,” Kops says. “They are not as big or bold or ro­bust as they used to be, so pro­grams for older adults will not nec­es­sar­ily find a home that easily within the univer­sity, and they may be rel­e­gated to the fur­ther pe­riph­eries of the univer­sity, or not ex­ist at all at the univer­sity.”

It’s not that schools don’t rec­og­nize the value of serv­ing the grow­ing co­hort of ag­ing boomers, but they are deal­ing with in­creased costs in an age of gov­ern­ment cut­backs. That’s part of the rea­son ex­tended ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba, where Kops teaches cour­ses on adult learn­ing and con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion, cur­rently has no pro­gram­ming for older adults. But de­mand will only grow as ex­perts pre­dict there could be 9.9 mil­lion or more Cana­di­ans aged 65 and older by 2036, or al­most 25 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Add to that the con­cept of “ac­tive re­tire­ment,” where se­niors don’t want to slow down and hit the re­cliner in front of the TV, and we have a grey tsunami on the hori­zon.

“We’re liv­ing so much longer, and there’s more to life than play­ing golf, watch­ing your grand­kids or what­ever,” says Roz Ka­plan, di­rec­tor of lib­eral arts and the 55-plus pro­gram at Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity in Burn­aby, B.C., one of two schools Kops sin­gled out for praise. “One of the three pil­lars of SFU is an en­gaged com­mu­nity,” Ka­plan ex­plains. The univer­sity, which has worked with non-tra­di­tional learn­ers since 1974, has about 3,000 older adult learn­ers with an av­er­age age around 70.

Ry­er­son Univer­sity in Toronto, the other school Kops sin­gled out, made a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment to life­long learn­ing 20 years ago. That’s when it hired San­dra Kerr, now di­rec­tor of pro­grams for 50-plus at the Chang School of Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion, who over­sees cour­ses for 3,000 non-tra­di­tional learn­ers.

She says one of the chal­lenges with older adult learn­ers is that they never grad­u­ate.

“They don’t come for three years and then … go on to some­thing else, so we’re al­ways de­vel­op­ing some­thing new.”

Where there are gaps in older adult ed­u­ca­tion, learn­ers are tak­ing on the work of plan­ning lec­tures and classes through or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Se­niors’ Col­lege As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia and the Third Age Net­work, founded in France in 1973, which has about 100 mem­ber groups across Canada.

Third Age Bar­rie, an hour’s drive north of Toronto, reg­u­larly sells out five-part spring lec­ture se­ries on topics like Mis­un­der­stand­ing Africa and, this year, City Futures: Fac­ing Big Is­sues in the Age of Im­me­di­acy. Kerr says the On­tario net­work has added or­ga­ni­za­tions in Guelph, Owen Sound, Colling­wood and Wind­sor, to name a few. “They’ve just re­ally grown like gang­busters in the last year or so.”

HE’LL AL­WAYS HAVE PARIS

Like so many be­fore him, Brian Aspinall fell in love with Paris. It was the breath­tak­ing beauty of the Sor­bonne univer­sity’s grand art-lined lec­ture halls that cap­ti­vated the 15-year-old on a French course from his high school in Manch­ester, Eng­land.

“Even then it had a real ca­chet,” says the re­tired IBM Canada sales ex­ec­u­tive from his home in King City, Ont., 35 kilo­me­tres north of Toronto. “All I can re­mem­ber of the three weeks in Paris is the Sor­bonne. I can’t re­mem­ber where we stayed or what we did.”

It stuck with him through his busi­ness stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham and his sales ca­reer with IBM, which brought him to Canada in 1975.

But it wasn’t un­til 2002, when Aspinall was 63 and mostly re­tired, that he en­rolled at Al­liance Française be­fore a visit with his Paris-based brother.

There he found a com­mu­nity of like-minded re­tirees with rich life ex­pe­ri­ences, and that’s where he heard about a bilin­gual lib­eral arts col­lege at York Univer­sity in Toronto. When, at 70, he en­rolled in the French stud­ies pro­gram at Glen­don Col­lege, his pro­fi­ciency was “high-in­ter­me­di­ate or low-ad­vanced.”

Learn­ing French was never about ex­er­cis­ing his brain or even about so­cial­iz­ing, since his class­mates were mostly fe­males in their late teens and early 20s. The goal was al­ways to learn more about French and Québé­cois cul­ture and im­prove his com­pre­hen­sion and vo­cab­u­lary.

Al­though his class­mates could whip off a pa­per the night be­fore, he had to chip away at it for days. Fail­ure was not an op­tion, and his com­mit­ment to suc­ceed was his ma­jor mo­ti­va­tion.

“The pres­sure was en­tirely in­ter­nal be­cause I wanted to do well,” he says. “I didn’t have to get the best marks but I cer­tainly didn’t want to fail.”

Aspinall was 77 – and York’s old­est grad­u­ate of 2016 – when he walked across the con­vo­ca­tion stage to col­lect his Bach­e­lor of Arts with a B-plus av­er­age.

He still takes classes at Al­liance Française with the same peo­ple he started study­ing with 15 years ago. Now good friends, they meet out­side class – and take trips to France – to prac­tise their French.

Aspinall was in a class by him­self when it comes to older adult learn­ers who take cour­ses for credit. In 2015, Sta­tis­tics Canada data shows 400 out of more than a mil­lion full-time post-sec­ondary stu­dents were over 65, while 2,300 of al­most 300,000 were study­ing part-time, a trend that hasn’t changed much for the sil­ver set in the past five years.

Aspinall has been back to the Sor­bonne, sat in its his­tor­i­cal halls and imag­ined him­self lis­ten­ing to a lec­ture on 17th-cen­tury French play­wright Jean Racine.

Not only could he com­pre­hend it but, at 78, he could ask an in­tel­li­gent ques­tion, un­der­stand the an­swer and re­tire to a café to de­bate the nu­ances of the text. Not con­tent to stop there, Aspinall wants to do it all over again – this time in Span­ish.

I’M WITH THE BAND

Irv Grif­fith grew up in Lit­tle Bur­gundy, a Mon­treal neigh­bour­hood he says is fa­mous for two things: jazz pi­anists Os­car Peter­son and Oliver Jones.

Al­though Grif­fith, 69, was taught to play pi­ano by Daisy Sweeney, Peter­son’s older sis­ter, he quit af­ter a year.

“My mother said, ‘You’ll be sorry one day,’ and, as most moth­ers are, she was al­ways right,” says Grif­fith, a re­tired IT spe­cial­ist at McGill Univer­sity.

Al­though his par­ents were not mu­si­cal, his life did not lack a sound­track. A friend’s fa­ther in­tro­duced him to Amer­i­can blues singer and pi­anist Cham­pion Jack Dupree, while his older brother was a jazz drum­mer who played the Mon­treal clubs.

In his late 40s, Grif­fith signed up for pri­vate pi­ano lessons, stick­ing with it un­til he got a CEGEP diploma in mu­sic, even as he worked full­time. Then he picked up the sax­o­phone. That’s when he heard about the Mon­treal New Horizons band, formed in 2014 as part of Au­drey-Kristel Bar­beau’s PhD re­search at McGill into the bi­o­log­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and so­cial ben­e­fits of learn­ing to play an in­stru­ment af­ter 60.

When Bar­beau, now a pro­fes­sor of mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sité du Québec à Mon­tréal (UQAM), de­fended her the­sis, band mem­bers were in the au­di­ence. “One of the re­view­ers said she changed the way McGill op­er­ates in the mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion area,” Grif­fith re­calls. “I can’t say enough about her.”

The Mon­treal band is part of the New Horizons In­ter­na­tional Mu­sic As­so­ci­a­tion, started by a U.S. mu­sic pro­fes­sor to cre­ate mu­sic­mak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for adults. Now, there are close to 200 chap­ters, with al­most 20 in Canada. The bands charge a fee to join, which can vary; in Mon­treal, play­ers pay $120 for a 12-week term, with

three terms a year. y There is no set grad­u­a­tion date, and many play­ers stay y for y years, while some move on to com­mu­nity bands.

Bar­beau now has a be­gin­ner and in­ter­me­di­ate band, but the prof in­vites mem­bers like Grif­fith to play py with univer­sity stu­dents, who are learn­ing g new in­stru­ments, , and mu­sic-ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents to con­duct and py play with the New Horizons bands. It is an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional ex­per­i­ment, , mix­ing g boomers, ,g genx­ers and mil­len­ni­als. “There’s even an eight- g or nine-year-old boy who comes and plays with his fa­ther,” says. It's a re­ally won­der-ful en­vi­ron­ment.”

Band mem­bers re­port im­prove im­prove­ments in mus­cle con­trol and breath­ing; some say play­ing main­tains strength and flex­i­bil­ity in arthritic hands. Then, there are the so­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits. “One woman re­al­ized that a younger per per­son lived on the same street, and they started go­ing to movies and prac­tis­ing to­gether, and they are 35 years apart in age,” age, says Bar­beau.

Next she wants to mea­sure stress hor­mones and im­mune-sys­tem im­mune sys­tem rere sponse in band mem­bers to see if and how mu­sic soothes the soul soul.

Grif­fith’s short-term goal is to mas­ter a song called “Slow Walk” ex­actly lh the way Amer­i­can i jazz j sax­o­phon­ist Sil Austin played it. Then h’ he’s think­ing hi ki about b adding ddi an­other in­stru­ment to his reper­toire. “I re­ally like the sound of f the bass clar­inet,” he says. “Oh what a rich, beau­ti­ful sound.”

SEND IN THE CLOWNS

When Toronto res­i­dent Elaine Lith­wick saw a news­pa­per story about Car­ing Clowns, a con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion course for older adults at Ry­er­son Univer­sity, she had just re­tired from a 39-year ca­reer as a so­cial worker in fam­ily and chil­dren’s ser­vices.

“Laugh­ter is the best medicine,” it read. “Bring laugh­ter and joy to de­men­tia res­i­dents in long-term g care fa­cil­i­ties.”

Lith­wick, then 62, tucked it away y be­cause she was head­ing to Ot­tawa to help p care for her mom, , who was liv­ing with de­men­tia in a long-term care fa­cil­ity. y

“I hadn’t re­ally thought about what my y next step p would be,” , she re­calls. “I was re­tired for two months. Other than meet­ing g friends for lunch and go­ing to the gym, I thought, ‘What else is there to do?’”

Af­ter her mother died in 2013, Lith­wick wanted some­thing g “light g and bright and happy, where it would wou d make ae me e happy appy as we well as make other peo­ple happy.”

The first class, learn­ing to act silly, was ter­ri­fy­ing. Lith­wick kept her eyes glued to the ground, hop­ing in­struc­tor Lynda Del Grande would not call on her.

“It’s hard when you’re 60-plus and you you’re re com­ing from a se­ri­ous job,” job, Lith­wick says. “You like silly, but it it’s s not a part of you.” you.

Stu­dents get their clown noses in the first in­tro­duc­tory course, which be­gins in the fall. By Jan­uary, they are de­vel­op­ing their char­ac­ter and putting to­gether cos­tumes. The practicum starts in March and in June and af­ter 50 hours of train-

ing and about $600 in tu­ition (bur­saries are avail­able), they grad­u­ate.

Lith­wick, who has a sunny dis­po­si­tion, de­cided on Sun­beam as her clown name. She wears a bright yel­low shirt, pink pedal push­ers un­der a multi-coloured skirt, odd socks and run­ning shoes with soles that light up. Her clown­ing part­ners in­clude Dim Sum, Senorita Rosita, Feath­ers, Pop­py­seed Joy, Yupi, Ta­tee and Lorna Dune Singing a Tune, who plays a ukulele.

“We’re not scary clowns with white face, nor do we have seltzer bot­tles and flow­ers that squirt wa­ter,” Lith­wick says, ex­plain­ing they act more like a zany rel­a­tive. They play mu­sic – “a lot of peo­ple love Elvis,” she says – and sing and even have dance par­ties.

“When we’re there, they put a smile in our heart and we put a smile on their face. Whether they re­mem­ber we were there, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter be­cause while we’re there, they’re in the mo­ment and we’re in the mo­ment.”

About 50 peo­ple be­tween 55 and 90 have com­pleted the pro­gram since it be­gan in 2009, while about 15 are cur­rently ac­tive. Lith­wick, who vol­un­teers three morn­ings a month, says her clown col­leagues are good friends. They of­ten car­pool to their gigs and grab a bite af­ter. “It re­ally is a ca­ma­raderie,” she says. “We go out to lunch to­gether, we laugh. It feels good.”

Don­ald Baker

Brian Aspinall

Irv Grif­fith

Sun­beam and Senorita Rosita

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