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Seniors line up for SFU courses in Vancouver

An enthusiastic group of seniors was lined up to register for Simon Fraser University's classes for people aged 55 and over on Wednesday.

Some of Simon Fraser University's 55+ courses fill up quickly

While people can register for Simon Fraser University's 55+ continuing education classes online, many prefer to wait in line to sign up in person at the Vancouver campus. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

An enthusiastic group of at least 30 seniors lined up to register for Simon Fraser University's program for students aged 55 and over on Wednesday. 

While registration can be done online, many find it easier to sign up in person. 

"It's not just the act of learning and going to the classes, but it's the idea that they're among people that they can talk and share their enthusiasm with," said Liberal Arts for Adults 55+ program director Roz Kaplan. "It's a community of learning, and that is part of the importance."

Kaplan said the classes — which can lead to a certificate if the student decides to write the papers to qualify — are taught by professors, some of who are retired as well. 

"It is the most amazing thing for our instructors too, because to the last one, they will say that instructing these students is the best teaching they have ever done," said Kaplan. "They've lived through a lot of the eras that we're talking about."

Teresa and Luis Carrazon, married 52 years, have been taking classes together for several years. Now they're signed up for At the Crossroads of Empires: the Balkans 1453-1914. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Teresa Carrazon, 75, and her husband Luis, 76, have been attending classes since they retired about 10 years ago.

The couple has been married for 52 years, and enrol in courses together.

"We're going to be taking the Balkans," said Luis Carrazon, referring to At the Crossroads of Empires: the Balkans 1453-1914

"The experience is great, I would recommend it to anybody who is either retired or about to retire," said Teresa Carrazon. 

"You don't want to sit at home and vegetate for the rest of your life. You want to do something with your brain and you want to be with people that think similarly to you and you can discuss things and it's better than just being at home and doing nothing."

Luis Carrazon said keeping up with course work isn't really an issue, so long as you're not trying to get a certificate.

"It all depends on you — how much you want to study. Me? I'm a little lazy."

Donna Nanson, 75, is registered for a Jungian course about end-of-life considerations, and a class on social identity. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"I'm in! I'm so excited," said Donna Nanson, 75, after successfully registering for a class on social identity and a Jungian course on end-of-life considerations.

"I've taken courses in quantum physics and I'm not a scientist," she said. "I've taken courses in Dante's Inferno and Michelangelo. There's such a range and it's exciting to have that range to stimulate your brain."

Nanson said she's been taking the classes for about 10 years, and often coordinates with some of the other students.

"We've met some really dear friends here," she said.

Eleanor Bridge, 74, started taking continuing education courses in 2002 when her daughter signed her up.

Eleanor Bridge, 74, has been enrolled in the 55+ classes since 2002.

"My daughter decided, 'Well, I don't want her going crazy,' so she signed me up for two courses."

Bridge usually takes two classes per session, and six sessions each year. She enjoys meeting other people and making friends at school.

"That's the good part about it," she said. "And you have lots of interesting conversations too."

Burns Madden, 69, already has two degrees and spent his career as an educator, but he wants to stay engaged and stimulated with more courses in his retirement. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Women tend to dominate the classes, says Kaplan, filling roughly 80 per cent of the seats. But Burns Madden, 69, has tried to buck that trend.

"I've tried to convince several friends ... to take these courses, but it's hard to get men to leave the house, or I'm not sure what it is and I find that discouraging," he said. "I think that's a real issue."

Madden registered for a class on First Nations in B.C. and one about life under the Third Reich, which quickly filled up.

"I think you have to be busy in retirement and as active as you can," he said. "Mentally active and physically."

"I already have two degrees, so I don't need any more, but I'm just a lifelong learner and just enjoy coming down here and meeting wonderful professors and listening to their lectures."

Wendy Morrow Donaldson, 57, was last in line to register for 55+ classes on Wednesday. She singed up for a course on First Nations in B.C. — her first class since she was in university. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"Friends of mine had told me about the program," said Wendy Morrow Donaldson, 57, who still works as a historical interpreter at the Burnaby Village Museum.

She just enrolled in her first class since college, a course on First Nations in B.C., and she hopes to apply what she learns at the museum.

"The thing that I fear, is that even in university, I couldn't write a paper to save my life," Donaldson said.

"I went to University of Victoria … I took my bachelor of f--k all in theatre and acting," she said, adding that she aims to work toward the certificate. "I'm a virgin to it all."