It was once assumed that old dogs couldn’t really learn any new tricks, and whilst some people meant that very literally, others were alluding to a much more depressing fact: that we simply cannot learn as effectively as we once did once we get past a certain age.
Whilst there is a certain amount of truth to this adage, it has very little to do with the brain and how we function cognitively. Instead, it is all about how we are taught when we are younger, how confident we are, and indeed how willing to fail we happen to be, not to mention the fact that we simply have far more free time to learn new skills and those ‘new tricks’ when we are young compared to when we are older.
This is therefore very good news for those of us who are no longer spring chickens, and recent studies have actually proven that, in the right setting, older individuals are likely to learn both cognitive and physical skills far more quickly than those who are still in their youth. From playing an instrument to learning a language, right through to understanding complex theories and ideas, it does not matter how simple or hard the skill or idea is, you are more likely to be able to master it when you are older than when you are younger if you are taught in the right way and if you have the time and commitment to get it right.
This means that, no matter what you wish to do, you can do it at any age. It is also good news for students who have not been able to previously grasp certain concepts or even entire subjects. If teenagers have never been good at maths, it may simply be that they have not been taught in the right way, and an increasing age will not preclude them from turning this around. Even those who have exam dates looming may be able to turn their fortunes around just by being given the right tutors and the confidence and time that are required for such information and skills to take hold.
It also means that individuals who need to revisit certain GCSEs or A Levels later in life to help them move into a new career do not have to worry that age will be a barrier. No matter whether they need to retake maths exams or brush up on their languages, there will be private tutors available to get them ready for any exam and in turn for the career path that they are desperate to pursue.
When we are very young, we are taught in a very specific way, and we have all the time and enthusiasm in the world to get to grips with mastering any skill or subject. Later in life, we simply need to find that time and commitment if we wish to excel, and whether one wishes to learn the guitar at the age of 50 or finally get to grips with science at the age of 16, there will be nothing stopping an individual from doing just that.