I’ve long held a view that higher education can come too soon for many of us. I didn’t uncover a love for learning until my fifties, even though I’d had moments in my thirties and forties when I stopped and wondered “what if …”
I was in my late twenties when I had simple mathematics explained to me in a manner I could relate to and understand – not by a teacher, but by my employer’s Finance Director. All he did was take a few moments to assess my level of ability and tailor his explanation accordingly. It was like a massive light bulb had been turned on. My daughter had a similar experience with a new maths teacher in the final year before she took GCSE exams (taken at age 15/16 for readers across the pond) and the difference he made was powerful. A sole trader now, she does her business taxes with competence and without drama – rather than maths becoming something which held her back from following her creative dream.
Life-long learning is a current buzz phrase, but why isn’t it the norm? I know age-old wisdom says our brains are sponges during childhood making it the best time to learn, also that it’s hard to teach an old dogs new tricks. But is it learning that becomes more difficult with age, or is it our ability – and/or willingness – to simply memorise facts? As adults, are we more likely to bring our life experience and analytical skills to bear to the learning process? And if so, surely that’s a good thing?
With the growing incidence of dementia, we’re being told how important it is to keep body and brain active. Yet the daily life of many an adult is limited to get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed … and repeat – to be worker drones in effect.
Learning needn’t be formal, nor be about obtaining qualifications. Learning can be as simple as maintaining a spirit of curiosity. There’s that old chestnut about a person being interested and so interesting. I’ve oft said I enjoy hearing about another person’s interests – regardless the subject matter – so long as they are knowledgeable and passionate about their subject. I don’t expect to retain it all, but by active listening and a willingness to learn something, my brain remains engaged and active.
If I get dementia due to genetics or some other factor – so be it. I’ll have done my best to fight it off, all the while enjoying learning about huge amounts of fascinating and interesting topics.
Postscript: After completing my post, I saw this meme and mentioned it during a chat with Himself. I was saying how it made me stop and think, even if it were easy to run a truck through it scientifically-speaking. To my surprise he laughed and said “nope, it’s supported by basic physics.” When I pointed out that the words basic and physics are never connected in my world, he went on to explain about specific heat capacity. We to’d and fro’d on the subject until he suggested I would find it worthwhile taking a Physics GCSE-level course (you’ll remember aimed at 15/16 year olds) as it would give me a real grounding in much of what goes on in the world – scientifically speaking. So, I’m going to do just that …
How do you keep your brain active? What are your thoughts about life long learning?
© Debra Carey, 2019