Tools for Lifelong Learning at Every Age
Earlier this month, a 96-year-old New Jersey native, known as “Auntie Lee” to her local community, was awarded her high school diploma after passing the GED – a mere 80 years after dropping out of school to tend her family’s farm.
And in January, one of Auntie Lee’s fellow nonagenarians, Amy Craton, picked up a bachelor’s degree by studying online – and then promptly enrolled in graduate school at age 94.
It seems like we’re hearing more and more about Amy and Auntie Lee’s contemporaries hitting the books, walking the stage at high school graduations and cropping up on college campuses after deferring diplomas to work or raise a family.
And with the idea of lifelong learning becoming as popular as it is, we naturally think of folks like Amy and Auntie Lee as the epitome of what it means to learn for a lifetime.
It’s true – these two are living examples of the learning lifestyle. They prove what neuroscience has shown: that the human brain is, indeed, capable of learning at all ages. That’s called plasticity, and it means that we can rewire our brains – at 90 or at 29.
So, while I hope I’m as sharp at 90 years old as Amy and Auntie Lee, I don’t have to wait until then to earn my stripes as a lifelong learner. Thanks to the explosion of technology, it’s easier than it’s ever been to dig back into your old favorite subject from high school or pick up a new skill.
There are tons of ways to learn new things. You can enroll in a MOOC – that’s a Massive Open Online Course – through platforms like Coursera, and learn anything from coding to Chinese, or subscribe to one of thousands of educational podcasts or YouTube channels. Of course, there’s an app for that, too – try the Elevate brain trainer, Duolingo for language learning or Curiosity to have a new fact delivered to your phone every day.
Or skip the screens and engage in some real-life learning. Head to your local library or college – odds are, both offer lectures and courses that are free and open to the public. Pick up a volunteering gig or a new hobby. The options are endless.
The bottom line is that as a society, we know more than we ever have before – which means we can learn more than we ever have before. Each of us has a lifetime to do so, and it’s time we take advantage of that.