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#Microblog Monday 229: Too Old to Learn

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I know how to play chess — I was even the head of the chess club at school (because I’m that level of cool) — but I would like to get better at chess.  It has been on my to-do list for a while: Get better at chess.  But I may be too late.  Apparently chess players peak at 36 and then slowly go downhill.

It’s a funny thought to think of yourself as too late for something.  Too young — that is a situation you live over and over again through childhood.  But too old, especially for something non-physical or biological, I thought I had all the time in the world.  I mean, yes, I recognize that there is a big difference between “get better” and “become a grandmaster.”  But still.

It made me wonder what other items on my wish list would be past their expiration date by the time I got around to it.  I imagined that I would learn how to use an D-SLR camera in my later years, add another language, master the sewing machine.

What do you imagine learning in your later years?


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1 Elizabeth { 01.14.19 at 7:15 am }

Well, this past year at the ripe old age of 45 I learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube! So cross that off the bucket list! I want to become a master at miniature knitting. Even though I probably need bifocals.

2 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.14.19 at 8:22 am }

I hope to master the art of acceptance. Or at least get better at it.

3 HopefullyMyLinesNow { 01.14.19 at 8:31 am }

You can add me to the “learn a language” club. I’d also like to learn to knit and learn proper weight lifting techniques. No idea why I haven’t started already, probably just because I’ve been swamped with life and work!

4 Skinny Black Girl { 01.14.19 at 9:11 am }

Add me to the “learn a language” list as well (currently working on Spanish via the Duolingo app). And I’d like to expand on my astrology hobby and become a certified professional eventually.

5 Isabelle { 01.14.19 at 10:02 am }

I really want to learn how to swim properly. I can swim but I have a fear of treading water. I won’t be able to survive in open water if it comes to that one day. I had taken lessons but still don’t know how to do it. Would love to do that one day when I have more time.

Also want to learn skiing and knitting/sewing/crocheting.

6 Sharon { 01.14.19 at 11:33 am }

There are a few things I would like to either learn, or improve at, in retirement (assuming I live that long). In addition to reading more, I would like to learn to knit and crochet and become more proficient at playing the piano and speaking Spanish (two things I can do a little bit but not well).

Sure, I could work on these things now, but with children and a demanding full-time job, it’s hard to find the time.

7 Cristy { 01.14.19 at 11:37 am }

I am challenging the idea that anyone is ever too old to learn. It may take longer than someone who is younger, and there may be limits for what can and cannot be mastered, but learning is a lifelong activity.

I wonder about chess given that most matches are usually timed (correct?). Thus does the “peak” occur due to ability to quickly recognize moves and strategy? Losing agility I buy, given that my own mind isn’t as fast as it was when I was younger (and only had myself and specific things to worry about given others were supporting me on the more major stuff).

As far as things to learn, there’s so much. I’m working my way through Spanish at the moment, wanting to pick up German again, but also on the language list is French, Latin and exploring Madarin. Maddy is pushing me to learn to use a sewing machine so she can learn too. And I want to learn Python.

8 Mali { 01.14.19 at 6:27 pm }

There’s a difference between learning something new when we are in our 40s-60s or even (for lucky people) in our 70s, and – for most of us – in our 80s/90s. The first years (or decade or so for the lucky ones) of retirement is a time when I think a lot of people learn new things, simply because they have the time. But then age, and especially dementia, really puts a halt to that. So, unlike Cristy, I don’t believe that learning is a lifelong activity. I’ve seen that, for many people, there is a time when learning anything new actually becomes impossible.

That said, I want to learn new things as long as I am able. Learning, and especially self-taught learning, is a major part of who I am. Over the last 20 years I’ve studied several languages (formally, and self-taught) and I’m currently trying to revisit and improve my Spanish (in preparation for travel). I learnt how to blog. Learnt a lot about biology, reproductive health, and psychology. Oh, and last year I finally learnt how to use a mirrorless (ie DSLR-equivalent) camera. It was easy.

Professional learning is, I think, pretty much unavoidable up to retirement. And in our 40s and 50s and perhaps 60s (I’m not there yet) experience and knowledge combines to give us a lot of new skills and new awareness too. If we’re open to it.

Actually, I think that that is always the main thing about learning. If we’re interested in new things, in learning itself, then we’ll do it as long as we can, even when it becomes more difficult.

9 loribeth { 01.14.19 at 9:41 pm }

I don’t know if we get “too old” to learn. I think what happens is that, when you’re younger, it’s basically your JOB to learn, at school & otherwise. When you get older, other things take precedence, like working & taking care of your family. Of course those are all learning experiences in & of themselves…! But learning for learning’s sake/pleasure will sometimes take a back seat. And sometimes we get into routines and ruts where we don’t keep learning new things the way we once did. I’m not sure I’ve learned any important new SKILLS lately — but I’m reading & learning all the time — bits & pieces of history & other information.

10 Jess { 01.14.19 at 10:57 pm }

I am also skeptical that you can be “too old” to learn, but I think it can get harder, and you may not suddenly discover you’re a prodigy at a later age. But, I think the trying is where it’s at.

I think you can train your brain. I am not a tap prodigy by any means, but I definitely can improve in it, and I feel like it makes me quicker both physically and mentally. I’m sure the peak for tap is like, 8. 🙂 I would also like to learn a new language, maybe Italian because I’d like to go to Tuscany. And it’s so beautiful, the Italian language. Languages aren’t easy for me, but I find it so romantic to be able to go somewhere totally different and talk in that language, if not fluently than enough to sound reasonably like you’ve made an effort. I would love to improve my drawing skills, too. My mom said that I used to draw great, and then I learned to read and it was like I traded skills.

I think the secret to aging well is keeping that novelty and always trying new things (barring Alzheimer’s and things beyond your control that can hamper that). I hope I never stop learning.

11 Working mom of 2 { 01.14.19 at 11:15 pm }

I’d like to learn to play the guitar (DH does too). It’s. It’s not burning desire, but something we’d like to do. Also scuba diving (maybe). Languages. Reread/refresh chemistry.

Other than re: (some) physical sports, I think/hope the “you’re too old” BS is crap (absent dementia, which not everyone gets—see RBG).

12 Amber { 01.15.19 at 2:00 am }

I’m in the “never too old” camp, barring anything like dementia. We may not learn as fast or as well as we would have when younger, but a person can always learn knew things.

I’d like to do yoga. I’d like to learn how to have a more peaceful mind, and to train my body to be more flexible and be able to rest.

13 Valery { 01.15.19 at 5:17 am }

I think I have read that learning might protect the brain against deterioration….
My mother started taking up tennis lessons and playing competitively at age 50. She is 78 now and still plays. So that is my example. (I also see how she is struggling to send an sms message after many years of trying)
I’m inspired by Elizabeth to learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
And maybe learn how to ride horses together with my daughter. It seems a very romantic idea to travel on horseback into the great wide open.

14 Lori Shandle-Fox { 01.15.19 at 7:00 am }

I’ve been thinking lately, especially since my birthday is next month– that I’m in my “later years”. I’ve always wanted to learn chess. I really don’t think of myself as too old for much of anything. Sure I couldn’t be an Olympic gymnast anymore or a prima ballerina but those options passed me by decades ago and I had no talent for either anyway. Who could be bothered wasting more time by lamenting about being too old for anything?

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