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‘It’s never too late to learn:’ U of G's senior learning program offers opportunity

After retiring from a career in real estate, Dan Izokaitis is headed back to school at the University of Guelph, at no cost
After retiring from a career in real estate, Dan Izokaitis, from Guelph headed back to learning at the University of Guelph, at no cost.

GUELPH - It’s been 50 years since Guelph's Dan Izokaitis graduated from university.

After retiring from a career in real estate, he thought 'it’s never too late to get back to learning.' So, in September, Izokaitis headed back to the University of Guelph to do just that.

“It was weird being on campus,” Izokaitis said.

“I’m 50 years older than any single student in the room. But I was curious about was going on and I wanted to find out what they are teaching students today."

Asked what his plans were after retirement, Izokaitis heard of a senior friend attending the U of G at no cost thanks to the learning opportunities for seniors program that offer courses and programs with no tuition fees at no cost. Seniors can either do the full course or simply audit it.

Senior students pursuing an undergraduate degree for the first time, those who already hold a degree and want to upgrade, and those with a college diploma and a goal to earn a degree, are among those keen to return to the classroom.

“Senior citizen students have a choice of auditing a course or taking a course for credit,” says admission counsellor Hilary Holmes.

“Auditing means they're permitted to attend classes, but they don't receive credit for the class. They may audit a course upon approval of the academic department offering the course.”

For Izokaitis, it was a quite a different learning experience, the second time around.

“As teenagers, coming out of high school and university back in the late 60’s and early 70’s, in my case, the first thing you want to do, is get out,” he said.

“Back then, everybody went to university. It was just expected. And if you didn’t go, it was a huge disappointment.”

Izokaitis graduated from Brock University in 1973 and was on the road to becoming a schoolteacher.

“I was going to teach math. I was told I would need to go to London to study for two more years and I said no, I’m not going to do that. So, I got into the working world on May 8 of 1973. And I actually retired 50 years later, to the day, May 8, 2023,” Izokaitis said.

With a background in Math and Sciences, Izokaitis says he never really liked the arts.

“I had no desire to take anything related to English, history, geography or sociology. So, I reached out to the university,” he said.

Because he worked in the real estate field, 46 of his 50 working years, Izokaitis thought that maybe he could find something related.

“In real estate, I had always represented the tenant, working for insurance companies, financial institutions, and for the last 15 years, I worked for media company Torstar.”

Izokaitis investigated a course as part of the Bachelor of Commerce curriculum, with a real estate designation.

“When I went to school, this wasn’t offered. I was curious about what they are teaching these kids as far as commercial or residential real estate. And because I always worked for a tenant, representing their real estate within the U.S. and Canada, I was curious about what being a landlord was all about,” Izokaitis said.

“What is a landlord’s world like, what is the expectation from a landlord’s perspective? Because I spent the majority of my time negotiating with landlords, I wanted to see what life was like on their side.”

Izokaitis signed up for the course and was accepted.

“You have to go through the exercise of applying as a student. You have to get accepted, and you have to dig up your transcripts from 50 years ago. I went to two universities, so I had to get transcripts from both. In September, I took my first course, a real estate sustainability course. I learned a lot,” he said.

In the winter semester, Izokaitis went on to take a course in property management.

“I actually knew some of this stuff, so I was able to participate more in the classes and offer some of the situations and circumstances that I went through in my career. I shared it with the other students, so that was kind of neat,” he said.

“In my particular case, I narrowed it down to a real estate component. I realized that I was still able to learn some things even though I was in the industry of 46 years. There are things that I learned from both courses.”

Izokaitis says he hopes to continue to learn at U of G.

“One professor is from the private sector, and I was quite intrigued by her teaching approach. She brings a lot of industry knowledge. If there’s an opportunity to do something in September, I will reach out,” Izokaitis said.

Holmes says Undergraduate Admission Services at U of G advises about 10-15 senior citizen applicants per year.

“Usually, they are interested in and meet the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts program. Often, they have previous post-secondary experience, but occasionally we see folks with ample work experience who want to attain formal recognition of their education,” Holmes said.

“A lot of the time, their studies are related to hobbies or interests outside of their academic or professional experience, for example, studio art, history, and English/creative writing classes are popular.”

Izokaitis says going back to school this time, was more of a personal test for himself to see if he could go back.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I highly recommend it for anybody that is thinking of doing the same thing,” he said.

“If you are 65 or older, there is a good chance that you are retired, which means that you have time on your side.”

For anyone looking to fill a part of their day, or might feel that they lack something personally, Izokaitis says this is a wonderful opportunity to continue to learn.

“What's interesting is that the more and more I talk to people and share my story, they are actually quite surprised that this is available to seniors at no cost,” Izokaitis said.

“This is there for them and hopefully some of them will take me up on that.”

In addition to having the application fee waived, most senior citizens do not have to pay tuition at U of G. Senior students must be either a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and must be 65 as of the first day of the month that registration takes place.

Student fees, course materials, and textbook costs are not covered.

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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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