Episode available within Canada only.

Never Too Old follows 81-year-old PhD candidate Olive Bryanton as she navigates through the final year of her doctoral program at the University of Prince Edward Island. 

According to Bryanton, more than half of older adults live in rural communities on P.E.I., and she believes that the services they need aren’t there. She knows that governments don’t create policies without research. So, at the age of 76, she decided to head back to school with a plan to study how older women are ageing in rural P.E.I. 

She recruited 10 women — all rural islanders 85 and over— to participate in a “photovoice” study, and shine a spotlight on the often overlooked and under-appreciated lives of older rural women. Bryanton asked them to take pictures of things that either supported or limited their ability to age where they wanted to age. She hopes her research will inspire programs and services that will allow these older women to stay in the communities they love. But there are bumps in the road on her academic journey. While she’s a lifelong activist with plenty of passion, Bryanton has never liked writing and struggles with procrastination.

In Never Too Old, we meet Bryanton’s research subjects, including Theresa, 91, who still mows her own lawn on her John Deere tractor; Anna, 88, who raised 10 children but now has a $27-per-month pension, highlighting the discrimination women of her generation experience; Ruby, 87, who — with a sharp wit — takes on the “little old lady” stereotype by shopping on her own for a new car; and Nan, 89, an artist who thinks it’s ridiculous to assume that people stop being sexual at a certain age. Through their photographs and stories, the women illustrate what aging is really like for them in rural P.E.I.

Bryanton was born in 1936, also in rural P.E.I., to an unwed mother. She was raised in an intergenerational household with the help of her grandparents who were ahead of their time: there was no gender division in terms of labour in her family, and Bryanton was raised to believe in herself. Her great-grandparents also lived just down the road, so she was surrounded by positive older role models — in Bryanton’s world, no one complained about ageing. This helped set the course for her adult life and advocacy.

But the film reveals how Bryanton’s strong beliefs may be making her doctoral journey more difficult. “Although I believe I am writing about what the women told me, maybe unconsciously I’m still trying to say, ‘Look, this is what [these] women are doing. They’re not a burden on society. Why can’t you see that?’” she says. Her thesis committee recommends she go beyond just showing that older people are living independently to articulate what the 10 women have told her about their needs, then distill meaning from their experiences.

Regardless of age, a PhD is a marathon that around half who begin never finish, and Bryanton has a lot of work and self-reflection to do. But she demonstrates what is possible if you don’t let ageist ideas rule your life. Never Too Old, by tracking Bryanton’s journey, makes it clear that there is no age limit on potential.

Credits (Click to expand)

NEVER TOO OLD

written and directed by 
Marcia Connolly

executive producers
Rick LeGuerrier
Timothy M. Hogan

editor
Sarah Byrne
Peter Giffen

cinematography
Paul McCurdy
Kevin Fraser
Marcia Connolly

original music composed by
Asif Illyas
Shehab Illyas

production coordinator
Alex LeGuerrier

drone operator
Lee Dodson

location sound
James O'Toole
Jim Rillie
Zander Rosborough
Aram Kouyoumdjian
Curtis MacNevin

visual research
Alex LeGuerrier

sound design / re-recording
Eric Leclerc

post production coordinator
Alex LeGuerrier

colourist
Marc Savoie

assistant offline editor
David Stewart
Brendon Wilson

assistant online editor
Robert Sharpe

dailies
Ben Sutherland

production manager
Elizabeth Guildford

production accountant
Krista Keirstead

production secretary
Krista Keirstead

publicist
Wendy Phillips

legal services
Rob Aske

archival material
The Guardian
The PEI Legislative Assembly
The Bryanton Family
Mike Needham
Ruby Cousins
Anna Duffy
Nan Ferrier
Theresa Kelly

thanks to
Cabot Beach Provincial Park
Keir Memorial Museum
O’Neil Home Gallery
The Seniors Active Living Centre
Summerside Toyota
University of Prince Edward Island
Hopyard Beer Bar

for the CBC

general manager, programming
Sally Catto

executive director, unscripted content
Jennifer Dettman

senior director, documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld

senior director of production
unscripted content
Alexandra Lane

executive in charge of production
Charlotte Engel