The Story of LLIR

This brief history of LLIR that was written in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.


In the beginning it started as an original idea in the minds of a few retired people. It blossomed into Living and Learning in Retirement (LLIR) the oldest third age learning group in Canada (and maybe the world).  As a result, over 1100 people now enrich their lives through general interest courses at Glendon College, York University, Toronto, Ontario.

In 1972 the federal Department of Health and Welfare established the New Horizons Programme that offered grants to groups of retired people to undertake projects that would benefit them and their communities.  A small group of people in North Toronto became interested in the possibilities this could offer and met with the Rev. Dr. Thomas Davies.  He voiced their objective by stating, “I want to be kept up-to-date to be a full fledged citizen.  I need nourishment for the mind, in the company of my contemporaries, in a program which we choose and manage for ourselves.”

The Idea Takes Form: 1973

The group met informally until an organizational meeting was held on February 1, 1973.  This led to the formation of Living and Learning in Retirement with Mr. H.W. Simpson as its first President and to a request for a grant from New Horizons for a three-day seminar.  The grant was late in coming so the plans were changed to a one-day conference at Glendon College, which was held on June 20, 1973 with the support of Glendon Principal Dr. Albert Tucker.

From this conference, the development of a series of lectures on Canadian Studies was born.  This course, developed by Helen Charney of the Centre for Continuing Education at York University, consisted of twelve weekly full day programs. Each day had a two- hour session in the morning and a two- hour session in the afternoon.  The course ran from September 28, 1973 to December 14, 1973.  Although planned for fifty participants, the demand was such that the registration climbed to one hundred and forty-four.  By the end of that first term, the success of the venture was evident and the volunteer directors of the Board felt confident that they could plan their own future programming.

The Glendon College Partnership Solidifies

In 1976, Dr. Michiel Horn, a professor at Glendon College, became the first Academic advisor of LLIR. He served in that function until 2005 when Prof. Geoffrey Ewen took over.  Canadian Studies was the focus of programming until 1979.  In that year, LLIR branched out to include other topics.  Its volunteer programming committee continues to work to provide balanced programming based on members’ suggestions. Two terms are now offered, one in the fall and one in the winter.  With high quality lecturers, members of LLIR now investigate everything from Big Ideas in Western Thought to Jazz.

The story of Living and Learning in Retirement was told in a small book entitled “Keeping Canada Together” published in 1978.  Due to the success of LLIR, the word spread and many appeals for advice on how to form a similar group came from across Canada and the United States.  The volume of requests led to the formation of Third Age Learning Associates under the leadership of Janet McPhee who had been president of LLIR from 1976 to 1979.  This advice was consolidated into a manual entitled Keeping Your Mind Alive, published in 1986.

At that time, nearly 30 groups of retirees had been formed in Ontario alone.

During 1986, Janet McPhee received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Glendon College, York University for her “contributions to Canadian theatre and as a tireless worker in the encouragement of continuing educational opportunities for retired citizens.”  After her death in 1991, the Third Age Learning Associates ceased to be.  It was later replaced in Ontario by the Third Age Network (TAN). LLIR is a member of TAN.