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The McGill Community for Lifelong Learning (formerly the McGill Institute for Learning in Retirement) was established in 1989 by the McGill School of Continuing Studies (SCS). Recognizing the need for a daytime non-credit program for older adults, various possibilities were explored and senior students were consulted. Inspired by the innovative program at Harvard, the MCLL was established and became the first in Canada to use an entirely peer-led model.

From the beginning, this was a program designed by and for the members. At the founding workshop in August 1989, areas of interest and potential moderators were identified, and two months later the first term opened with 180 students in 15 study groups held in classrooms across the McGill campus. Since then the program has grown by leaps and bounds. In the 2013-14 year, 632 members attended 111 study groups and supported the additional lectures and other programs now available. But in spite of increased numbers, the atmosphere of shared learning in small groups has remained the primary focus.

The McGill program is looked on as an inspiration for others. MCLL members have been influential in establishing similar programs in other Canadian cities and members have presented many times at conferences in Canada and internationally (see Resources and Publications). A major grant from Health Canada’s Senior Independence Program in 1993 provided the opportunity to do an extensive evaluation. The goals were to develop mechanisms to maintain the essential character of the program and review priorities for the future. A Guidebook for Organizational Assessment was produced and made available to other seniors’ programs and a peer-reviewed journal article about MCLL was published. A bilingual international conference, Maintaining Momentum, held in 1995 was attended by 200 delegates from Canada, the United States and several European countries.

In August 2014 MCLL held a conference on the McGill campus with the theme Celebrating Lifelong Learning: Seniors Programs Share Experiences & Plan for the Next Generation. In collaboration with other Quebec organizations the program presented the wide range of learning opportunities for seniors and provided the opportunity to network and exchange experiences.

The conference was the first of several events to celebrate MCLL’s 25th anniversary. Also in August 2014 MCLL held a 25th Anniversary Art Exhibit: an exhibition of artwork, sculptures and photography from artists within the community. Held at the McLure Art Gallery of the Visual Arts Centre in Westmount works by more than 30 artists were profiled. A final anniversary celebration took place in March 2015 when members who had made significant contributions to MCLL over the past 25 years were honored at the Annual General Meeting.

Planning workshops held every other year and Annual General Meetings provide opportunities for all members to contribute their ideas and suggestions. Current priorities at MCLL include meeting the needs of the newly retired generation and developing user-friendly web services.

You will find further information on MCLL history in the Special Editions of the Newsletter: