When you are curious there is always so much to discover. I strongly believe in the need to continue to learn, it is a way to keep a growth mindset, to be open and curious and to be ready to expand thought and to challenge our thinking.
Whilst I gained my doctorate in my 60s, learning doesn’t need to be academically focused or extensive. Sometimes a short course can be valuable, as could some personal exploration, we can always learn more about ourselves.
Remaining curious keeps us young, and builds our confidence. It can open us to new opportunities. There are so many options from short online courses, and the wide number of MOOCs (massive open online courses), joining U3A (University of the Third Age) to going back to university for academic studies. It could help with gaining work opportunities or it could be purely for its own sake.
If you always wanted to study French literature or learn motorcycle maintenance who not do a course now. I’ve been reading of a woman, now over 90 who seemed to be addicted to learning with 4 masters degrees and now studying for a PhD. If you want the academic qualification why not, but learning doesn’t have to be formal.
Many of us never got a chance to go to university, leaving to start work at 16 and learning on the job, or perhaps a part-time degree later, but with a focus on our career.
Forced to leave school myself at 15, I started to study with the Open University in my early 20s and continued to study, I became an effective learner, learning short cuts. Only later did I realise I had missed out on all the non-essential reading. One of the joys of academic study in my 60s was to have more time, and at one point I went down a side avenue and spent three weeks looking into the meaning of meaning which ended up as one paragraph in my thesis but I was so glad I fully explored this branch of philosophy.
Learning does not need to be academic, and it could lead to some paid work – sewing, cooking, computer programming or web design. It could be related to activities such as learning martial arts or to dance. It may be related to personal development – gaining the confidence to undertake public speaking, learning a foreign language so you can read Les Misérables in the original French, or you may want to become a better listener.
Here are some suggestions:
Books, Ted Talks and more
- I have so many books I’d love to read, if I’m lucky I skim through, and Ted Talks to watch. It will be bliss to find the time to read the books.
- I find this difficult, but it may be something you would love to do. It could be an online course, at a local college, via an app or by living overseas for a while.
- Did you always want to learn to play a guitar, or something else. It could be fun to learn and then join a scratch band.
- Learning Camtasia, or how to set up a podcast, becoming an expert in coding and creating an app. So many things you could choose if this is your thing.
- Most of us can cook, but we could learn to cook food from different cultures or more complex things. Whilst we can learn some things on line we can also go to classes. I learned to cook Thai food out in Thailand as part of a holiday.
Attending College/ University
But we can also go deeper, to learn more about who we are, and to have some of our views challenged. In America there are university fellowships such as the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute and there are week long courses at Modern Elder Academy (MEA) in Baja, Mexico (I was there in September 2022).
What learning opportunities are there within travel distance of your home? Does your nearest University or college have courses available for older people at reduced rates. It’s probably not to do a full degree but being able to dip into occasional modules with no need to write essays could also include a way of relating to those of a different generation.
What would you like to learn about yourself?
It could be interesting to take some assessments to find out more about your personality and for example, how you deal with conflict. You can also test yourself by taking yourself out of your comfort zone such as solo travel, facing a fear or learning something that is new (see the examples above).
Two case studies
Seamus, decided to learn Irish, and found a course via Future Learn. He also realised he could benefit from learning computer skills, so with a new computer and YouTube videos he is becoming more proficient. He still plans to learn more about photography but for that wants a face-to-face course rather than to learn anything else on line.
Vidhi started to learn Lindy Hop, and found a social life through regular attendance at classes. She then moved onto Burlesque classes, not to perform on stage but to give her more self-confidence. I’ve also done Burlesque classes and it was great fun.
I’d love to know if this article has sparked an idea for a new interest, or if you already had a plan on what to do next.
Till next time, Denise