Diana Muntigl. Kevin Mills / Mission Record.

Mission’s Lifetime Learning Centre teaching tech to seniors for online classes

Centre finding a way forward as COVID-19 cancels physical classrooms

Mission’s Lifetime Learning Centre has taken their adult education programs online, and are getting seniors to familiarize themselves with new technology along the way.

Through partnerships with the Reach Museum, and connections with sister organizations like B.C.’s ElderCollege and the Fraserview Learning Centre, Lifetime is supplementing its spring courses with an online format due to the COVID-19 virus, said Diana Muntigl, executive director at Lifetime Learning.

“We have people in their late 80s now who are able to do this,” Muntigl said. “They definitely did not have this knowledge about technology like the Zoom program before, and thought they couldn’t [do it].

“They were hesitant at first and now they’re doing it, and they’re quite enjoying it.”

The classes done with the Reach has just completed one program on Japanese prints that was “very well received,” Muntigl said.

“The Goddess Parvati, depicted in a pat scroll painting from West Bengal.” Image courtesy of Lifetime Learning.

On June 30, another program started on Bengali pat scrolls, a folk art that was practised by travelling minstrel storytellers in South Asia for hundreds of years.

“People just queued up and said they really enjoyed the last program and they want to be in this one too.”

The classes are conducted through live presentations with instructors through the Zoom app, which allows up to 100 people to participate in a virtual classroom at once, Muntigl said.

A popular “Chair Yoga” program has seen the size of its classes triple since the COVID-19 regulations started keeping everyone at home.

“No one has to travel, no one has to find a parking spot, everyone is more or less staying close to home. Our numbers are swelling in that one,” Muntigl said. “We are still connecting, maybe we can’t go out for coffee, but we can connect online.”

She said teaching older students to use technology was a “really big question” and a challenge at first, as only around half of their 250 members had been attempting to familiarize themselves with online tools over the last couple of years.

The centre has been using two streams to teach new technology to the seniors.

One is through inter-generational programs done in partnership with the Fraserview Learning Centre, which pairs up seniors with younger generations to help them learn.

Another is through their own technology programs that they have been conducting every month, with the help of their volunteer team.

“Our volunteers have been really helpful in that way,” Muntigl said. “They are retired and they’ve worked in the industry or in education and know technology.”

She said the ElderCollege has done a lot of work on how to do online presentations for older learners.

The Lifetime Learning Centre requires interested parties to email lifetimelearningcentre@telus.net to register for classes well in advance.

The centre needs a little time to gauge the student’s ability to use technology and what systems might need to be installed to help them work through the basics, Muntigl said.

“Then we can get in touch and make sure that they have the technology so they can access it, because that becomes a limiting factor.”

Muntigl was sure to thank the district of Mission, as well the provincial government for continuing grants that allow them to carry on with adult education. She said that many of the centre’s spring fundraisers, such as their “Inter-generational Walk-A-Thon,” had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.

“That’s why we can move forward and try other programs, because, although we do charge a nominal fee for some classes … We need help to meet some of the costs.”

Kevin Mills / Mission Record.

RELATED: Senior Social Cafe held weekly at Matsqui Park in Abbotsford

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