Like many people of the older generation, I was brought up to believe that once I’d exceeded my ‘best before’ date, new knowledge wasn’t something to worry about. Our poor old shrivelled brains don’t need to be bothered with such things.
I WHOLEHEARTEDLY DISAGREE!
Agreed, information isn’t absorbed as readily as in youth, however learning anything can be invigorating and can keep life interesting, as well as helping to stave off the ravages of some forms of dementia.
Since I reached my 60s, now nearing my 70s, my thirst for knowledge has actually grown, even though I am unable to process/ retain some information due to stroke damage. However, by accepting certain limitations and changing direction in my quest, I’ve learnt that practical rather than academic subjects, are more readily stored in my brain. Favouring subjects with more relevance in my life, has been a real brain stretcher.
As someone who left school, aged 15 without qualifications, I always intended to attend adult education classes to gain at least the most basics certificates. With all good intentions, a large family & manic home life got in the way and when I was finally able to spare the time, my confidence had deserted me. I told myself that I was obviously stupid & would probably never have passed my exams, besides, how relevant could it be anyway? I can now see I was just making excuses to cover up my fear.
Shortly after my 60th birthday, my life changed dramatically when I found myself single again. With a little used brain & disabling depression, I felt like the village idiot. Try as I might, I was unable to retain anything. I was stupid! But I knew I wasn’t! I’d simply limited my abilities for self protection. If I didn’t stretch myself, I couldn’t fail, could I?
Once I fought my way out of the depression, I needed to find something to keep me stimulated, to prevent the likelihood of a recurrence. And so my love of learning began….
It started on a very small scale, dabbling with pottery and art, with plenty of home reading. I became obsessed with holistic healing ( something I’d always even interested in.) Shortly before my divorce I’d surprised myself by training as a Reiki therapist, going on to become a Reiki Master, although I wasn’t really convinced of my worth. Once single, I began to relearn & gradually added to my list of holistic abilities. Lack of confidence was by far the biggest challenge, but no books could really teach me, knew I had to discover it for myself. Once I had achieved that, nothing seemed an impossibility, I could attempt anything that I wanted. Suddenly succeeding seemed less important than having a go.
With a lot of encouragement I became a flexercise leader ( I thought it was an easy option), but soon knew I didn’t want to stop there. Certain things were unrealistic due to health restrictions but I have since accrued a list of practical qualifications. Through my voluntary work I have taken training in Mental Health studies, courses in Life Coaching, first aid, food hygeine & safety. I am a Tai Chi Instructor, Food Waste Champion, set up a writing group and even led a women’s friendship group. I have written books, learnt to self – publish, even became a motivational speaker for a while. I can set up basic websites, and, for several months wrote a column in the local newspaper. For the last five years I’ve dedicated my spare time to a child cancer charity ‘Young Lives vs Cancer.’ I volunteer in one of their charity shops and absolutely love it.
Phew! I’m exhausted just reading that list. It’s as if it has happened to someone else, not me. Not stupid, unqualified me? Me who was only capable of making good cakes & looking after children? Me, who thought that I was a write off!
I still don’t have academic qualifications. I enrolled on an English Grammer course, but soon realised that I was doing it for other people, for their acceptance and approval, not for myself. At my age I don’t need a certificate to prove my worth. My life is doing that!
Not every pensioner willingly shuts down their brain on retirement, many aim for continuing achievements, however far too many aren’t.
I’m not advocating that everyone follow my path. There isn’t one right way. Everyones’journey is different. However I wanted to share this with you all, to prove that nothing is impossible. If I can encourage one person to achieve something that makes them swell with pride, I will be delighted.
Life is very different for upcoming generations, where women in particular are more self – assured and able to follow their dreams more easily. Pre 1960s,Women were mainly required to be proficient housekeepers, wives & mothers, perhaps reaching the exalted heady heights of shop assistants once their children had left home. I was none of these. Thankfully that is in the past.
We are fortunate to live in a Country where we have many choices. Few live in squallor, in fact most are able to live reasonable well, in comfort, even if not in luxury. However, it breaks my heart to see so many older people, resigned to a life of loneliness & misery because they feel unworthy of anything more. Their latter years are filled with little more than a television for company. Too many don’t strive for, or expect to achieve anything more, believing they aren’t capable of anything else.
Three words : YES YOU ARE!
Two words : TRUST YOURSELF.
One word: BELIEVE!
I hope that you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to let me know.
Please ‘follow’, ‘share’ or ‘like’, it will be greatly appreciated. I really value those who read my ramblings. Thank you.