Learning New Tricks
Whoever came up with the saying "You can't teach old dogs new tricks!" as a metaphor for the learning abilities of the elderly was way off. The fact of the matter is that, if motivated, the elderly can actually learn faster and better than the young. To maintain my skills and credentials to continue working as an emergency room physician, I, at 75, had to continue to take courses to update my knowledge and recertify my eligibility and maintain my medical license yearly.
The physicians who take these recertification and updating programs with me range in age from their mid-20s to their late 60s and 70s. Compared to the young doctors, we "old-timers" pick up the new material as easily, if not more so, than the "upstarts."
Have you take a hard look at college campuses lately? You'll see lots of us old folks … grandmothers, grandfathers, even great-grandparents … sitting in classes. Seldom are we at the bottom of the class, and we come by the knowledge of the material rather easily. It's because we have a wealth of foundation knowledge gained by years of experience, reading, study, and work. Much learning is a reorganization of old material; thus, we who have experience have an advantage.
It's the lack of motivation that keeps us from learning new material. Old dogs would rather sleep by the fire and watch the pups learn to roll over. But great rewards are to be had by learning new tricks. We can develop satisfying hobbes or even start new and exciting careers by learning new tricks. Master all … if we're going to outlive all of our ancestors' life spans, we might as well stay active enough to enjoy those added years.
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