Tips and resources to help you throughout your caregiving journey

We are never too old: learning new skills

Our Elizz readers are an enlightened bunch. We asked what you thought about the statement ‘I am too old to learn new things.’ Our readers posted 164 comments and a big thumbs up to ongoing learning when you get older. This stands out as the first time our readers have been in unanimous agreement. We are pleased to be in your company!

It is an absolute treat and an inspiration to read all the different things people are involved with and are learning in their older years. Here is a sampling:

My mother was in her 90s ,after learning how to knit in her 60s, and    she knit dozens of hats and scarves for children in Shriners hospital.      She was still taking painting lessons and painting up a storm in her        early 90s. I am 88 in June, painting street banners, practicing my golf and learning new songs on my harmonica. Have to get back on my violin but FB is taking too much if my time!

I can’t imagine being bored. There are so many things and ideals to pursue. I’ll be 87 in May and continue to do quilting and have just started a new ukulele class.

We are never too old to learn new things. I took up piano in retirement – I tend to be a little more impatient about the “perfection” part and a little less confident about the performing part because of the lack of mastery yet but the learning part is fun.

I began learning to belly dance at 67 years and feel better than I’ve felt for years.

79 yrs old just started drawing painting on my own.

Never too old. Started learning to play piano at 58 yrs old!

 I’m 85 and yet have learned more in the past few years than in much of my earlier life.

Never to old. I am 80 and just learning how to use a tablet

We at Elizz also loved the references to the learning that takes place between grandparents, their children and their grandchildren. As you could imagine, much of this revolves around technology:

I always say your never too old . My kids said I had to have a cell phone , then my son bought me an IPAD . My granddaughter helped me. Oh do I love it and so glad he made me learn. I talk to people that don’t have an access card, cell phone, IPad . I was scared to change and learn but it’s good to keep the brain working.78 and I’m busy painting my kitchen, the island a different colour. I also love to keep busy. No time to be BORED here , also volunteer.

Memory loss is NOT an inevitable part of aging

The significance of our Elizz readers’ responses can’t be overemphasized.  When middle-aged and older people are exposed to negative stereotypes about aging and memory, they  perform worse on memory tasks than when the messages about aging are positive. The research is abundantly clear: significant memory loss is NOT an inevitable part of aging. As a daughter or son caring for your aging parents, this is important to know. Equally important is knowing that learning new skills is one of the ways to maintain and improve our cognitive functioning.

Taking your brain to the gym

Whether you call it active aging, healthy aging or optimal aging, the message is the same. It is about more than the body basics of getting enough sleep, eating well and being physically active. It is also about exercising your brain with new challenges and activities. We have the capacity to learn, at all ages. Keeping mentally active is also a ‘protective factor’, as the experts call it, against depression.  Of course, taking courses with others is also a great way to stay socially connected.

What makes learning so appealing in post-retirement and semi-retirement is that most people have more time on their hands because the burden of work no longer consumes a big chunk of the day. Also, it is a time when your learning is about sheer desire, and not driven by what you need to know for work, for career advancement, etc. This freedom is in part what makes this (potentially at least) one of the best phases of life.

Get out of your comfort zone

Sure, you can continue to enjoy your crossword puzzles. If you want to improve cognitive functioning, however, it requires stepping up the game and taking on mentally demanding and unfamiliar activities. How about the morning crossword puzzle AND something completely outside your comfort zone, like a second language, or learning how to play a musical instrument, or photography, or quilting or ….

The biggest cognitive gains come to those who learn a new skill.

Sign me up: tips on how to make your new learning happen

  • Choose what you want to learn, not what you think you should learn (the only should is choosing something mentally challenging and not familiar). What interests you? What are you curious about?
  • Start with an online class or course & build up your confidence and ease into it.
  • Enroll in a community college or university course. Many of these courses are free if you just want to audit.
  • Check out what community organizations and local seniors’ centres have to offer.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor to join you. Shared experiences are often more fun.
  • Approach one of your grandkids and make a deal with them. They will teach you how to….and you in turn will teach them how to …… They may do it for you out of love, or maybe, just maybe, there is money involved.
  • Talk to your mom or dad about a skill they would like to learn and consider doing it together. This could be a fun experience and the creation of a pretty cool memory.

Lifelong learning: it’s for you and it’s for your mom and dad

How about your parents themselves?  As they age, are they learning new skills? It could be really interesting to have a conversation with them about the benefits of learning new skills. They may even have some skill they could teach others? I perused Boomerang workshops and you can learn and teach everything from baking the perfect apple pie and coffee brewing 101 to terrarium making and vision boarding.

So tell us…what new thing, out of your comfort zone, are you going to learn next?






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