The process of learning has always been associated with children and youth; the word learning here includes both its dimensions, “informal” as well as “formal”. Informal learning starts with mother immediately after the child is born with various gestures / sounds / rhymes / songs. As the child grows up, elders start teaching through formal & philosophical stories, mythological figures, and so on. And then starts the formal learning process through school education and then college & higher education. All these aim at building both technical as well as soft / life skills.
Traditional approach to learning says that the process of learning (acquiring new knowledge / skills) ends as soon as one enters the professional world. What one does after that is to enhance learning through life experiences and nothing beyond that. What it implies is that the journey of attaining new knowledge through learning attempts comes to an end with adulthood. And therefore, the traditional thought has always stood in the way of any learning efforts by seniors who are old and retired. The philosophy has been that as you are retired, you have learnt enough and now it’s time for you to retreat & relax.
Paradigms are undergoing a massive transition though. Today neither there is any bar nor lack of propensity to learn new things at any age. We have examples of people joining even the professional courses at advanced age of 50 / 55 and succeeding quite well. D N Chapke, a well-known face in elder care space and holding various official positions in several all-India senior citizen organizations including All India Senior Citizen Confederation did the certification program in NGO management after his formal retirement from service. In fact, his journey in the area of elder care started after he did the said course much beyond the age of 60. Similarly, My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF) was launched when the undersigned was beyond 65 years of age and the very idea was to provide a platform to seniors to hone their talent and showcase it.
Principle is simple: “there is no age limit for learning and upskilling oneself”. Elders need to come out of the mental barrier that they are retired and thus far and no more learning in life. Things are changing. What was relevant yesterday is no more relevant today. New ideas are emerging; new concepts are coming to the fore. Technological innovations are causing an explosion the way things are being done. The only way elders can lead a good & meaningful life in future is to remain relevant in this highly unpredictable world and one can do so by learning new things / ideas / concepts / technological tools & techniques. Learning thus is imperative to success in this changing and uncertain world. “Learn or perish” is the new norm.
There is another but quite interesting perspective. We see many elders did have a talent that remained hidden because of rush of life. Once they retire from professional life and complete all family responsibilities, some of these unfulfilled dreams drive them to charter new ways of life. This is accompanied with may be, “unlearning”, and “learning new things” what they want to do and then take them forward. These are umpteen examples of success stories with us. Having retired from banking service, Krishnaveni took an active interest in her past passion of doing some dance related activities. She completed the certification course in an interesting topic of dance movement therapy (DMT), a new generation technique highly suitable for different target groups and today she is a leading expert in this area in the city of Mumbai. Similar is the case with another member of ours Samatha Sengupta. She was interested in dramatics and acting since childhood but could not take it up seriously in view of various responsibilities of life. Having retired from bank, she re-discovered her talent and got very busy in acting and directing several acting projects with her likeminded friends, all members of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). The lockdown gave her additional chance to diversify in the area of “virtual skits” that she specialized on.
Learning does not have age barrier. As we talked about the hidden ambitions earlier, we also see seniors discovering “new areas of interest” and trying to learn these. MRL Has provided a perfect platform for this. There are several members of ours like Anand Saxena, R K Modi, Chandrakant Rane, Manhoar Gharat and many others who never sang before but started learning “how to sing” after retirement and they are now part of regular singing teams of the forum. The more astonishing part has been that all of them have come out of stage fear and have been improving in their performance every time they sing. Similar is the case with other members who are demonstrating their performance in other areas like dance or poetry recitation. Our member Lakshmi Ramani is an example in “dance” or Nirmala Subramaniam in “acting”, all after retirement. We also have instance of Naveen Duggal who developed interest and started learning basics of photography after retirement and today he is regular photographer in all our physical as well as virtual programs. Program anchoring is another specialized area. We see many elder members of ours like Usha Didee, Nafisa Shaikh, Ratna Mehta, and others having learnt the tricks of anchoring various events and doing very well.
What above discussions imply is that learning does not have any age restrictions. Equipped with traits like passion, commitment, drive and focus, one can learn anything at any age keeping, however, in view constraints of age. Fundamental point is that an individual has to have the wish to “unlearn” (old things) and “re-learn” new perspectives. The learning, however, needs to be in tune with future goals / purpose of life of an individual. Senior life is, in fact, better time to learn new things as other pre-occupations are lesser. Hence more time can be given for learning new skills / competencies. Axiom of life should be to learn till the time one can, keeping in view physical and cognitive abilities.