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University, giving meaning to one’s life

A new program is being offered to retirees to think about the meaning of their lives and to develop a life project.


In 2008, after spending 10 years running a bed and breakfast in Quebec, Maurice Gendron was a new retiree. He greeted his status with mixed feelings and lots of questions. Old age made him uneasy. “I didn’t like to see the signs of aging appear,” he remembers. “In fact, I didn’t even want to think about it.”

As for retirement, he had no wish to give into it, to just muddle his way along. He was eager to know where he stood. One day, he saw an interesting ad: The Life Meaning Project, a master’s program that offers adults aged 50 years and over an opportunity to reflect on their past and their future. “I didn’t want a retirement planning course that helps you, for instance, manage your budget,” Mr. Gendron explains. ”I wanted to undertake a real, in-depth reflection. This program appealed to me right away.”

The program is offered jointly by TÉLUQ (Université du Québec Distance Education), Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and Université du Québec à Rimouski in Montreal, Quebec City, Rimouski and Trois-Rivières. Groups of 15 to 20 students, with the support of professors in sociology and social work, are invited to think about the meaning of their lives and to develop a life project.

“After a philosophical reflection upon the meaning of life, students write their own life stories, placing their individual experience within the social context of their lives,” explains Jean Gagné, the program director at TÉLUQ. “They can then advance to the stage of bulding a life project. Everything is done in a group, in seminars, where discussions among students play a central role.”

At the end of the program, Mr. Gendron noticed a major change in the way he perceives his life. “I feel very relieved,” he says. “This program plunged me into a philosophical reflection that I still follow today. As for old age, I welcome it now. That doesn’t mean that I am happy to be headed that way, but I’m embracing it by telling myself that there’s an important life experience ahead.”

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  1. Erik / December 1, 2011 at 19:08

    Beautiful! It is great to see that Universities are thinking a little more developmentally and are grasping the idea of lifelong learning and the benefits of a person centered approach to education.