Class acts for P.E.I. seniors

Sally Cole
Published on September 4, 2014

Catherine Fisher, centre, receives compliments on her painting, Malpeque Bay, from her fellow students at the Seniors College of P.E.I. The 94-year-old Charlottetown woman plans to enrol in more classes when online registration begins on Saturday. From left are Georgina Clow, president, Roger Smith, Alix Jenkins and Maria Dowling. Registration for classes begins Saturday.


As Catherine Fisher talks about registering for classes at the Seniors College of Prince Edward Island this coming Saturday, her eyes twinkle with excitement.

At 94, she likes to try new things.

“I’ll take whatever courses I can handle. But the art studio is my priority,” says the Charlottetown senior.

It’s one of the many classes she has signed up for over the past four years at the college which has classes scattered across the province.

“It’s where we sit and paint using whatever medium we want to use. There is no teacher, so we help each other by making suggestions. It’s a great way to relax,” says Fisher.

Taking courses is also a chance to catch up on a career that she put aside many years ago.

“Now I’ve come back to it and it’s inspiring me,” says Fisher, who studied under (well-known Canadian artists) Violet Gillett and Julia Crawford at Saint John Vocational School in the early 1940s.

“I never finished because I got married and started raising a family of four.”

Fisher is one of the students looking forward to starting a new semester at the college when classes begin later this month.

Another is Maria Dowling whose wish list for registration day includes bridge, yoga, hiking, plant-based nutrition, Five Crops that Changed the World and Friday Afternoon at the Movies.

“The variety of courses is amazing. You can take an unlimited number for the amazingly low annual fee of $152,” says the 59-year-old.

Besides classes, socializing is an important draw. In fact, that’s what drew Dowling to her first class when she moved to Charlottetown shortly after retiring in 2010.

“We were brand new to the Island and I found it an excellent opportunity to meet people. I wasn’t expecting to make bosom friends, but I wanted to have acquaintances to invite over for dinner. And we’ve met some great people,” says Dowling.

One of these people is Roger Smith, 74.

At first, what attracted him to the college was the invitation to teach a course on animal behaviour.

“I was missing teaching so much that I said, ‘yes,’” says the retired Brandon University zoology teacher.

But then a quest for further knowledge took over. So he took a music appreciation course from Bill Bartlett and another one on jazz.

“After learning about music, I thought, ‘I’d like to play an instrument.’ So I started playing the recorder and the violin.

“And though I play them poorly, I just love it,” says Smith, whose interest in music inspired him to join the band, Definitely Not The Opera.

“It all stemmed from going to seniors college.”

Georgina Clow is also enthusiastic about the non-profit organization, which is affiliated with the University of Prince Edward Island and the Centre for Life-Long Learning.

“We have some wonderful new courses,” says the college president, adding the lineup includes bridge, legal issues for seniors and companion animal welfare, a course partnered by the P.E.I. Humane Society and the Atlantic Veterinary College.

She also has some advice for first-time students.

“There’s no test, there’s no stress and over the weeks of the course a community forms,” says Clow.

Smith also enjoys getting to know his fellow students during coffee breaks and informal gatherings.

“It a great way to meet people. The other thing it does is exercise the mind and the body. We need to keep our minds active and have fun. Both these aspects can be found in spades at seniors college.”



If you are registering on Saturday

Go to Press the link to 2014-2015 courses.

New members, click the button, Create My Account.

Existing members, enter an email address or user name in the right bar. Then, enter password in the white bar labelled password and sign in.

For more information, contact co-ordinator Martha Ellis at 902-894-2867 or send an email to