Is it really possible to break into a new area of learning and study long after the act of study has officially ceased? Can someone really become ‘too old to learn’ now? Or are the true obstacles to learning in adult and later life self-doubt and apprehension?
How many times have we heard someone say the words “Oh, I’m too old to learn all that now,” or “It’s beyond me at my age.” And not just from elderly people either – many adults who have left school years ago possess the belief that because they are of a certain age, this physically limits their ability to learn within subjects that lie outside of what they have done in their life up to that point.
Part of this preconception stems from the widely known fact that babies and children are processing new information and learning techniques at a comparably phenomenal rate, and therefore learning much more, much faster. As we get older, we take on more and more experiences, until we leave school, get a job, and for many, effectively end our relationship with formal learning.
But this does stem the desire to acquire new experiences. When some people tire of routines or careers, someone may suggest some kind of adult education or home study course to further their goals – only for that person to tell them “I’m too old to learn something new now”.
It is my belief that this notion of grown adults being physically less capable of learning is erroneous – what limits us in our desire to learn is the sum total of our experiences so far, and our tolerance for the learning process as a whole. The idea of being put back in the spotlight and possible ridicule is unpleasant to consider for some, as well as being in the disadvantageous position of ‘coming in cold’ knowledge-wise.
But one has to remember, such courses are a very different experience to being at school. The consequences and risks to one’s pride are no longer present, and as they are designed to be completed around one’s personal and work life, the same constraints and inconveniences are not present. Many surprise themselves at how well they pick up the information once they take the plunge.
The worst thing someone can do is to stop learning, whether that be in a formal or personal capacity. It is then, when people stop thinking that they even possess the ability to learn, that they lose something vital, and run the risk of stagnation.
The main thing to remember is to maintain an interest in life itself. If this is kept steady and bright, then the learning process and everything it entails will never stop. This applies to all walks and areas of life, and from the cradle to one’s twilight years. It just takes a more selective eye as we get older.