Seniors line up to register for Elder College at the Landing Sports Centre in 2009.

Seniors line up to register for Elder College at the Landing Sports Centre in 2009.

School’s in for Chilliwack’s elders

For Chilliwack’s golden age, registration day at ElderCollege is like the first day of kindergarten.

For Chilliwack’s golden age, registration day at ElderCollege is like the first day of kindergarten.

Many line up for hours before the doors open, hopping from one foot to the other, with nervous butterflies fluttering through their bellies. With a list of desired courses grasped tightly in their hands, they wait, hoping, praying for admittance.

“There’s a bit of apprehension,” leading up to the start of registration, “because people really want to get into the courses they want,” said Alison Kalnicki, ElderCollege coordinator.

“It has all the excitement of the first day of school.”

And that excitement is today.

ElderCollege registration is from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Landing Sports Centre.

Kalnicki expects at least 250 to rush the doors, with the first registrants lined up as early as 1:30 p.m.

With 70 volunteers on hand, Kalnicki doesn’t expect hiccups.

ElderCollege is a non-profit society that, in partnership with the University of the Fraser Valley, offers non-credit courses to people 50 years and older.

There are no exams, no studying, no grades, no pressure.

“It’s inexpensive. It’s fun. It’s a real vibrant group of people,” said Kalnicki.

Courses range from cooking, to acting, to learning Spanish, to working a point-and-shoot camera, and more. Some classes are six sessions, others are more like a one-day field trip. And often, the biggest draws are the beginner-level computer courses.

“Ten years ago it would have still been okay to say you didn’t know how to use a computer, but now, it is so isolating for people not to have access to computers,” said Kalnicki. “There aren’t a lot of places where you can go and slowly learn. Sure anyone can go to the library and use the computers there, but if they don’t know what a mouse is, they’re not going to get very far.”

At ElderCollege, “the courses are designed for people who don’t know anything about computers,” said Kalnicki.

ElderCollege offers three levels of computer courses for beginners, as well as slightly more advanced courses on how to maintain your computer, create a PowerPoint presentation, and a word processing document.

New this year, the college is expanding its technology repertoire to cell phones. It will be offering a one-day tutorial on how to master cell phones, which can be a source of confusion and frustration for many in the baby boom plus generations.

“A lot of older people are being given cell phones as presents,” said Kalnicki. “They can usually figure out how to make a phone call, and they know it does other things, but they don’t know how to do them. And even if someone shows them once, unless it’s written down or they do it every day, it’s hard to remember.”

In the tutorial, they’ll learn how to check their voicemail, take a photo, download photos on to the computer, etc. And they’ll be learning from students.

ElderCollege is partnering with the school district’s work experience program. High school students will be teaching the adult students.

“They’re the experts,” said Kalnicki.

“A lot of members may not have contact with the younger generation … they might have sat next to a teenager on the bus who was playing on his cell phone and thought what is he doing on there. But now, they’re going to know. Now they can sit beside them and play on their cell phones too.”

Anyone who can’t make today’s registration, can still register for courses by contacting the ElderCollege office at 604-702-2611.

kbartel@theprogress.com