Senior Citizens: There is No Upper Age Limit for Learning

Dr A K Sen GuptaUpdated: Saturday, April 09, 2022, 04:12 PM IST
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There is always a notion that “cognitive aging” associated with old age results in impairment of both thinking process as well as execution abilities through their slow down. It is also beyond doubt that with age, memory also gets diminished. Age affects all types of memories: working or long-term semantic or episodic or prospective memories. This essentially means impairment not only to remember past but also to do future tasks in time. All these cognitive disability processes, no doubt, hinder normal flow of activities. They slow down speed of thinking and doing ability and thus promptness and quality of action suffers.

Does it Mean End of Road?

Does the impairment of cognitive abilities mean end of the road for elders? Answer is an emphatic “no”. Abundant evidence suggests that old age is, sometimes, beginning of a new journey for many. There are quite a few seniors who would like to explore new meaning of life, discover their hidden potential, charter a new voyage and do things they had not done or could not do at earlier age. It is, therefore, beginning of a new life to them; if not a full life, at least a part of it. They start enjoying new adventures. Many members of My Retired life Foundation (MRLF) have ventured into new activities after retirement. They were not getting the right opportunity or platform to showcase their talent. MRLF provided the same and there was no stopping after that. We see many of our members attempting new passions like skit, singing, dancing, painting, anchoring, public speaking, learning a new language, among others. And their commitment, passion, interest and dedication have been as good as any other young persons. It is sometimes difficult to believe that they have started doing these activities after retirement. Such is the precision and dedication of these seniors.

And therefore, rightly we say there is no end to the journey of learning.

Three (3) Facets of Learning Journey:

There are three (3) stepping stones to the journey of learning. First, the learner has to unlearn many of the things they have leant. They have to discard old ideas and beliefs. If they have learnt something in the past that is not relevant today has to be forgotten. For example, “I learnt in childhood that old people need to retire and spend a religious life.” While this may be true for some, for one who wishes to learn something new has to discard this teaching. Unlearning is removing block of the past that is creating barrier in process of learning. Second, the learner has to find where lies his / her interest / passion. Finding out this secret is cornerstone of success as uncovering the “Ikigai of life” is extremely important before we start the journey. It is rightly said that a journey begins with end in mind. And therefore, lot of time is needed to find out the area that interests one to take up as subject of learning. And finally, the last step: practice, practice, practice is the key mantra of success. The most prevalent axiom is: “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” More the time one commits & practices, more likelihood of success will be!! In this process of learning & practicing, there is a need to constantly upgrade oneself in terms of new trends, methods, technologies to be in tune with time.

Advantages of Learning:

Till now we talked about learning, its nuances and steps. In fact, elders must lead a life of active learning as it is helpful to them in several ways. First, it keeps them active, busy and engaged allowing them to spend time fruitfully. Not doing anything creates a sense of loneliness and work aversion. Doing a new thing through process of learning removes this boredom. Secondly, learning a new thing and practice thereof slows down speed of cognitive impairment. And therefore, it slackens the process of aging as well. Thirdly, keeping busy though learning helps one to forget physical pains of old age; it also temporarily enables one to overcome difficulties of life. And finally, doing a new thing will definitely improve dignity and social acceptance of a senior and help him / her to become happy and lead a dignified life.

Way Forward:

There are no negatives about learning. We often see a sense of hesitation on part of elders to do new things. This is the only roadblock that needs to go. After that, sky is the limit. Society has a responsibility to create right ambience for elders to learn and showcase their learning talent. The senior citizen associations are ideal places of peer recognition of learning talent by elders. We strongly believe that all individuals have some talent or the other; what is needed is right place and time for it to come out. The seniors should always try to lead a dignified and active life through constant process of leaning & practicing new things. There is no upper age of learning. One can lead a learning-based meaningful life till last breadth.

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