In College Life of a Retired Senior, Yvonne Blackwood chronicles her experience as a senior pursuing a college degree.
At 64, Blackwood—retired from her 37-year banking career and already a published author— enrolls at Toronto’s York University to obtain a degree in English to improve her writing. She also hopes to stave off dementia, retain structure in her daily life, and serve as a role model to her grandchildren. Determined to succeed, she aims to graduate in six years, but unforeseen factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic and personal medical issues, pose obstacles to her plan.
Prior to her first day, Blackwood practices taking on and off a backpack that she newly purchased to look more in style with the young students. Intrigued by generational differences, she wants to fit in without her age being her defining identity. Although at first taken aback by the pervasive use of online technologies, she soon learns to make PowerPoint slideshows and to create a podcast.
This willingness to break out of her comfort zone makes Blackwood an appealing figure. Upon receiving any disappointing grade, she buckles down harder. Even when hospitalized for two months after cancer surgery, she carries on, bolstered by the help of friends and her faith.
Using straightforward, clear writing, Blackwood recounts each phase of her journey. She describes her professors and classmates, and offers extended accounts of what she learned in her classes. These passages will engage readers to the extent that they are interested in the subject. For example, those interested in English literature will find thought-provoking passages about books and authors, but might be bogged down by Blackwood’s recitation of facts learned in her environmental pollution class—and vice versa.
Nevertheless, Blackwood’s appealing attitude and resilience keep readers turning pages, rooting for her success. Ultimately, this is an inspiring story of an older woman’s quest for knowledge. A Reader’s Guide is included to spark discussion.
Also available in hardcover and paperback.