PEI

81-year-old earns PhD from UPEI

Olive Bryanton, a long-time advocate for seniors on P.E.I. and recipient of an honorary doctorate from UPEI in 2000, completed her studies for an earned PhD this month at the age of 81.

'It was a little on the scary side'

The university told Bryanton she is the oldest person it has granted a PhD. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Olive Bryanton, a long-time advocate for seniors on P.E.I. and recipient of an honorary doctorate from UPEI in 2000, completed her studies for an earned PhD this month at the age of 81.

UPEI says she is the oldest recipient of a PhD ever from the university and Bryanton told CBC News she was nervous going into her thesis defence.

"It was one of the few times in my life that I went brain dead ahead of time," she said.

"It wasn't until 10 o'clock that morning that it finally clicked in again. It was a little on the scary side."

Back to school

Bryanton started her graduate studies about a decade ago, earning her Masters in 2009.

She was working on the UPEI campus at the time, and was encouraged by campus life to return to studies. She took a break after her Masters, and started on her PhD in 2013.

We have to get rid of this ageist attitude.— Olive Bryanton

Given her advocacy work, research involving seniors seemed an obvious choice but it took some time to narrow her ideas down to a manageable subject.

She ended up focusing on 10 women, aged 85 to 92, who live in rural areas of P.E.I. She asked them to take pictures of things that limited their ability to continue living where they are.

Tina Mundy, the minister responsible for seniors, said she was partly inspired by Bryanton's research in announcing a program to help seniors remain independent.

Bryanton said she found while the women in her study needed help, they were also very active as volunteers in their communities.

"We have to get rid of this ageist attitude that's around … Older adults are not a burden on society. These women have certainly proved that," she said.

"We have to recognize that family provides so much support for older adults but we also have to recognize that the older adults provide so much support to families."

Bryanton will receive her PhD at a convocation ceremony in May.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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