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Seniors College of PEI ready to begin 2021-22 season in September

August 12, 2021

The Love of Learning – Copied from The Guardian, August 12, 2021

After suddenly going blind 10 years ago, John Owen of Stanhope took his big sister’s advice and vowed to remain an active member of society.


He had contracted necrotizing fasciitis, commonly referred to as the flesh-eating disease, and within a span of 10 days lost all his vision.


Rather than retreat to life’s shadows and wallow in some understandable self-pity, Owen chose the side of life that is filled with the light of optimism, even if he can’t see light.


Says Owen: “My much loved older sister said, ‘Well, you will just have to stay informed and stay relevant and your life will continue.’ And she was absolutely right.”


Owen credits the Seniors College of Prince Edward Island with adding to his quality of life.


“The Seniors College has given me lots of thought provoking ideas.”

He laughs that it also helps keeps him from becoming too boring.


Just like most things in P.E.I. society, the 2020-21 seniors college season fell victim to the COVID-19pandemic. However, the 2021-22 season is on the near horizon.


A full list of programming for the new season is available for viewing on the college’s website at are over 150 different courses. Registration for classes opens Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 9 a.m. For an annual fee of $160, college participants can select an unlimited number of courses spanning three semesters — September to November, January to March and April to May.


College president Pat MacAulay says people are already logging into their accounts and paying memberships in anticipation of a return to class this fall.


“We are hopeful that this is an indicator of the level of interest we can expect from seniors this school year.”


MacAulay strongly advises people to login into their account and pay their membership before the start of registration on Sept. 8. That will speed up the process of selecting courses. Those who register and pay before Sept. 1 will be eligible to win a free membership, or one of three Food Island gift cards.


A hard copy list of courses will appear in the September issue of The Buzz, which come out in the latter part of August.


Owen is an Island native. He says his P.E.I. gene pool has been around since the 1770s. He and his wife, Miriam, spent their professional lives in Ontario before retiring to Prince Edward Island.


Lectures and courses on P.E.I. history have been particular favourites of Owen. Learning about P.E.I.’s Black history, and the shipbuilding and fox industries, were enlightening.


One of the things Owen’s blindness took away from him was the pleasure he enjoyed in holding and reading newspapers.


“I miss my reading but the seniors college lectures are stimulating, informative and thought-provoking.”



Another fan of the college is Linda MacDonald Brown, who practised medicine for 40 years in P.E.I. Since retiring in June of 2018, she has dived into many of the programs on offer.


“It opens the door to so many different fields that I always wanted to investigate and didn’t have the time or chance to do,” she said.


An active senior, MacDonald Brown says she particularly enjoyed the college’s hiking program, which in turn has got her involved in a cycling group.


Another college program reintroduced her to a youthful pleasure.

“I have had the enjoyment of getting back into painting.”

She now dabbles in watercolours, acrylics, charcoal and sketching.

MacDonald Brown says the social aspect of the Seniors College is not to be overlooked.


“You spend your whole life in your career, and around the people you know from your career. The college gives you a chance to get outside your box or normal sphere of activity. It introduces people to new areas that they probably were always interested in, but didn’t really know how to go about getting into them.”



A native of Ireland, Nollaig Bonar of Charlottetown offers a poetic description of the Seniors College. She describes it as “a bouquet of delights” that helps fill her love of learning.


Bonar’s first name is Irish Gaelic and means Christmas. She immigrated to Canada in 1977 when she was offered a job in occupational therapy at the rehab centre in Charlottetown.


Leaving her native country wasn’t unusual for her generation.

“Immigration is always a career choice in Ireland, where do you want to be and where do you want to be it.”


Bonar retired about 10 years ago and says seniors like her have a thirst for knowledge.


“I think that as we grow older maybe we get more curious. We are free in terms of our stage in life to explore more knowledge in a way that when you were a busy worker and running a home, you’re learning what you need to do to earn your bread, but this is like pure pleasure in a one payment deal for a whole year.”


She says seniors college participants need to be strategic in making choices.

“The challenge is to take the ones that you really like and not overlap (with other courses). You have to make some hard choices sometimes because there are so many courses, so many good presenters and so many great topics.”


Bonar is always impressed not only by the courses and lecturers, but also by her classmates.

“It’s amazing to learn from the teachers, but my goodness, there is an awful lot of learned people amongst my peers that are taking the courses, and the things and experiences they share. The knowledge, it’s wonderful.”



Gary MacDougall submitted this article on behalf of the Seniors College of P.E.I.

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Charley Scott
(902) 894-2867

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