Starting the new year with a commitment to learning

Long-time student Alberta Rafferty shares some of her favourite Elder College memories. Spring course registration take place on Jan. 19.

Long-time student Alberta Rafferty (left) and Elder College coordinator Sharon Blaker visit 'E' building of the UFV North Campus (45635 Yale Rd.)

Long-time student Alberta Rafferty (left) and Elder College coordinator Sharon Blaker visit 'E' building of the UFV North Campus (45635 Yale Rd.)

Alberta Rafferty is a prime example of a lifelong learner.

Born in 1923, she has 92 years of wisdom to her name. But she still thirsts for more.

When Elder College first opened in 1999, 98 people enrolled in the then eight courses. Alberta, who signed up for three of those courses, was actually the fortunate individual who won a free membership.

Even though that complimentary membership ran out in 2000, Alberta never stopped taking courses.

“And she never takes just one at a time,” laughed Sharon Blaker, Elder College Coordinator.

In the Fall 2015 semester that wrapped up a few weeks ago, Alberta had taken Understanding Political Terrorism and – her favourite class – Tapestry for Thought.

She’s always favoured the thought provoking classes. As Sharon revealed some of the upcoming classes and speakers for the Spring semester, Alberta’s signature catchphrase was, “Oh, that would be interesting!”

That genuine interest in tackling new challenges and wrapping her head around complex ideas is true for most other Elder College students as well.

“I think you just love learning,” Sharon said to Alberta. “You have a very inquiring mind.”

“Well, I’d call it nosy,” Alberta retorted.

Her passion for the school gathers from a few reasons.

First, she loves that there are no exams.

Second is the sociability of the college. Alberta got talking about the woman who she sat next to on the first day of Tapestry for Thought in 1999. The two of them had lunch together afterward, and they are still best friends today.

That tends to happen regularly at Elder College. Sharon sees students gather in the cafeteria for a post-class coffee and conversation, and she herself has formed great friendships through classes that she’s taken.

Lastly, and most importantly, “it keeps your mind active,” Alberta stressed.

She’s had an active mind all her life. She recalled stories of her time running the Royal Welcome service in Chilliwack, her awe-inspiring travels around the world, and her time as a clerk in the armed forces, where she found out that her name was not actually Alberta.

“It was this other god-awful name that I cannot tell you,” she laughed. While she’s been known as Alberta all her life, which was the province where she grew up prior to moving to Chilliwack, her parents had never officially registered the name change.

Alberta has taken upwards of 60 courses since 1999, and when asked if she plans to continue for years to come, she enthusiastically replied, “You betcha!”

And there are some great classes lined up for the Spring semester. They have all new speakers for Tapestry for Thought, unique classes like Jazz Appreciation, Gardening, Improv and Conversational French, courses to help you understand your digital devices, and active classes like Easy Hikes and Learn to Curl.

Courses are taught by industry experts, many of whom are UFV professors or retired professionals.

Now with more than 400 annual members and at least 24 courses per semester, the college has experienced significant growth over the years. But the goal of providing an exciting range of lifelong learning opportunities remains the same.

Elder College courses are available to anyone who is aged 50 or older. Classes range from one to six sessions and in cost between $20 to $60. Membership costs $12 and lasts for a year.

Spring Elder College registration takes place Tuesday, Jan. 19 from 1 to 7 p.m. at the UFV North Campus (45635 Yale Road) in Building E. Parking is free. Most classes will still be held at the Canada Education Park campus.

For more information, call 604-702-2611 or visit them at or on Facebook.