79-year-old Toronto grandmother earns first university degree

News source from CTV News

Convocations are usually a time for proud, beaming parents to watch their children receive their degrees. Osra Lindo, however, had one of her adult daughters cheering her on.

“It was an exciting time,” the fiery 79-year-old told CTVNews.ca after donning her cap and gown. “This is the cherry on top.”

After four intense years of study, Lindo earned a bachelor’s in Gender and Women’s Studies from Toronto’s York University on Thursday. It is her first university degree.

“The chancellor asked me, ‘What took you so long?’” Lindo recalled with a laugh.

Born in Jamaica, Lindo has called Canada home for more than 50 years. A mother of four and a proud grandmother of five, she previously worked in the banking sector and as an ESL teacher before she finally decided to pursue a postsecondary education. Easing into academia through York University’s Bridging Program helped Lindo feel that she “arrived.”

“The professors at York are marvellous,” she said.

Lindo adds that it was important for her to study a “living” subject.

“With what’s happening in the world, now it’s not binary anymore,” she explained. “Male? Female? Forget it! That’s in my time. Now there is a whole new world out there: a world that we all have to understand. Gender and Women’s studies opens your eyes to so many things. It’s a beautiful subject.”

Starting a university degree as a septuagenarian, however, was by no means easy.

“I’m really not technologically savvy,” Lindo admitted. “So I did a couple of courses online.”

But even more difficult than brushing up on computer skills was going into classrooms where the majority of her peers could easily have been her great-grandchildren.

“I think at first you’re timid about joining in with a class of younger people,” she said. “But then as you go in, you realize that it’s not about you — it’s about what you want to do, what you want to learn.”

There were a few cultural adjustments too.

“Young people, they are beautiful once you get over the fact that they’re going to use the F-word quickly!” Lindo laughed. “Once you get over that and realize it’s not an awful word, you’re OK. Because, you know, as an older person, you say, ‘Oh my!’ They say, ‘F it!’”

And not only did Lindo walk away with a degree, she also has a new group of friends that make her “feel younger.”

“I was really the youngest at heart, but oldest in age,” she joked.

Lindo also has a message for seniors like herself: “Get out in the world and learn something!”

“They must get up off their fanny,” she said pointedly. “Some people at 65 retire and then retire from everything and suddenly they are looking from under the daisies because they have retired from life… As you get older, you have to keep interested in life. And if you don’t, you pay for it, because everything goes. They say, ‘Use it or lose it.’”

Lindo is by no means done with her education. She says she now plans to study the piano as well as French and Japanese.

“I have two Japanese grandsons — my daughter-in-law is Japanese,” she explained. “So I don’t want to always (just) say ‘sayonara’ to them (because) they say, ‘Grandma doesn’t like me!’”

While Lindo didn’t join her peers for all-night ragers – “You have to know your limits at this age!” – she does plan on celebrating tonight.

“Rum punch!” she said of her plans. “It’s already made and I’m ready for it!”

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