SACKVILLE, N.B. – Cooking, gardening, Tai Chi, rug hooking, hiking, bird watching and painting.
These topics may not seem like they have much in common, however, they share one similar connection – they are courses that have been offered to local seniors over the past decade thanks to the Tantramar Seniors College.
And that’s just a small sampling.
Getting set to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the wildly-popular seniors college has been growing by leaps and bounds since its inception – from its initial lineup of 10 courses in 2008 in Sackville and Amherst to now hosting more than 220 different classes in Sackville, Amherst, Moncton and Shediac.
“It’s been amazing,” said Heather Patterson, one of the founders of the TSC.
Membership has continued to rise since its inception, she said, and the variety of course offerings keep getting more extensive every year. Patterson said the TSC provides seniors in the community with an abundance of fun, engaging and affordable learning opportunities. From magic tricks to yoga, and from computer basics to cribbage expertise, the selections are varied, she said, and offer the chance for residents 50-and-over to take up new hobbies or take on new challenges.
Patterson helped organize the founding meeting for TSC back in the spring of 2008. Modelled after the seniors’ college of Prince Edward Island, she wanted to see if the idea would take root here. The premise of a seniors’ college is based on peer learning, where seniors share skills, knowledge and experience with each other through six-to-eight-week courses.
Sackville senior Al Smith has been both a student and a teacher with TSC since the beginning and has enjoyed every minute of it. He said he and his wife sign up for at least three or four courses per term, with there being a fall, winter and spring session each year.
“I just love the concept,” said Smith. “It’s just so appealing, the idea that we all have something to share with each other.”
A history buff, Smith said he enjoys not only being a participant in the courses on local history, genealogy and mapping, but has also hosted his own ‘So You Think You Know the Tantramar’ and ‘Morning at our Museum’ sessions, which have proven to be quite popular, usually filling up quickly.
He has also taken a number of hiking, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing classes, enjoying not only the fitness aspect but also the social atmosphere of getting out and talking to and meeting new people.
“As you get older, keeping both physically and mentally fit is important. The seniors’ college does that,” he said.
The $120 membership fee provides seniors the opportunity to take as many courses as they would like during the semester.
For more information on the TSC and about this fall’s courses, visit tantramarseniorscollege.ca or check them out on Facebook.
Many helping hands contribute to success
The Tantramar Seniors’ College is run mainly by volunteers and there has never been a shortage of people wanting to help, whether it’s teaching a course, coordinating class locations, serving on the board, or even a landlord offering free space for their office/classroom location.
“Everyone has just kind of run with it,” says Heather Patterson, a TSC founder.
The instructors are all volunteers, she explains, although they are offered a free membership if they teach a course with more than four classes. But she says those who teach do it for more than a complimentary membership.
“They teach a course because they love what they’re talking about,” she said.
The TSC will be celebrating its 10th anniversary at an upcoming event at the Tantramar civic centre.
The celebration will get under way at around 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 4, following its AGM, and will include a talk from the founders about TSC’s beginnings and how it has grown, a reading from a local student who took a memoir writing class and ended up writing a book, a Tai Chi demonstration, and a musical performance from ukulele students.
Did you know?
Last year, the Tantramar Seniors’ College received the New Brunswick Excellence in Aging Award, which recognizes New Brunswickers who have had a positive, unique and remarkable impact on the way people age in New Brunswick.