learning when we’re old

Recently I had someone ask me if it’s possible to learn new things once you’re older. The context was specifically creative things; can someone who is past twenty pick up a new instrument or start to draw and become proficient? The answer is easy; yes. I think we make it more complicated because once we’re twenty or so, we’ve usually got jobs and so many things going on that adding something so new isn’t feasible. You’ve got a good (or not) thing going, why throw yourself for a loop?

Personally, I think it’s vital to keep learning new things and hobbies as you get older. It’s been proven that it keeps your brain fit, and I think it can add richness to a life worn out from stagnation. Doing the same thing year after year makes for a very dull boy.

I guess I never thought myself that there was some age at which we lose the capacity to learn. I know that some things do have a short window; being an athlete requires a certain body capability just not present in older people, but for everything else I don’t think there’s anything holding you back.

After all, Harriet Doerr wrote her first novel, Stones for Ibarra, when she was in her seventies, and it won a National Book Award.

Certainly there is an age where we do learn at a rapid pace; when we’re in school, still trying to find out who we want to be and what we want to do, it’s natural to pick up all kinds of things. But the mistake comes, I believe, when we limit ourselves to that admittedly tiny window and then never try anything new again.

Like me for instance. I have a whole slew of stuff I’m learning right now, and the fact that I’m over twenty hasn’t given me any problems thus far.

List of things I’m learning or want to learn;

  • Ukulele
  • Drawing digitally
  • Animation
  • CSS/PHP/other programming languages
  • Korean/Chinese
  • Singing
  • How to be cool (this one, I think, is probably impossible…)


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