The importance of lifelong learning for seniors

Although it's back-to-school time for school-aged children, in pre-pandemic times, some seniors may have also been signing up for lifelong learning programs through community centres, universities and colleges.

For many, their desire to enroll in a class may have been driven by an interest in a specific subject and the hope of connecting with other like-minded people; however, research shows that there are tangible health benefits to later-life learning.

A Mayo Clinic study showed that people who engaged in mid to late-life cognitive activity had less cognitive decline over time, including delaying symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The study results suggested that it’s never too late to begin learning.*

Although life is certainly different these days due to COVID-19, with most fall, in-person community, college and university classes for retirees cancelled because of safety regulations restricting group gatherings, there are still other options to consider for curious senior minds.

Education opportunities at Chartwell retirement residences

For older adults who are thinking about the next chapter in their lives—especially given the social isolation some may have experienced during the pandemic—one of the benefits of a good retirement residence are the built-in learning opportunities.

Are you interested in European history? Travelling the world? Talking about the latest bestseller? Participating in a Tai-chi class? Check the activity schedule of the seniors’ residence you’re interested in and you may find speaker series, book clubs, bridge clubs and other special interest groups. There are courses in learning how to draw, paint, write, sing, knit, sew, dance, and the ability to participate in an incredible variety of activities, interests, and hobbies at will.

In the past, many residences have also invited local experts, teachers and speakers to present talks and hands-on workshops on topics of interest to residents.

At Chartwell Westmount Long Term Residence in Kitchener, Ontario, residents and staff even went so far as to create Westmount Academy. Senior students attended courses on a range of subjects over a 35-week period and enjoyed lectures, field trips, homework and evaluations. A dozen residents, complete with caps and gowns, successfully graduated and held a commencement ceremony a few years back.

For many seniors, the ability to pursue their learning interests without leaving their home is not just convenient, but also inspiring—many new residents find themselves re-discovering a long-lost pastime or a new learning opportunity through an in-residence club, meeting, or event.

On-line learning opportunities

Another option for seniors comfortable with technology is the ever-expanding world of online or virtual courses. Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, for example, began its Liberal Arts Certificate Program designed specifically for those over age 55 back in the 70s.*

Now the program is online so seniors across the country can enroll. The benefit of this, or any online classes, is that you can take them at your own pace, in the comfort of your home. Google “online courses for seniors Canada” and numerous sites will pop up, on every possible subject imaginable.

Chartwell Retirement Residences provides a wide range of stimulating lifestyle programs, events and activities that offer opportunities for learning, socializing, and enjoying life. Discover them here.

*The following sources are references for this in order of appearance:

1. Cognitive Vitality blog. “Cognitive Enrichment: Lifelong learning may help prevent dementia.” (June 2014), online:

2. Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies. Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate. (2020), online: