Maybe you’ve always dreamed of taking up painting or learning to knit. Perhaps you regret never having mastered a second language. The good news is, it’s never too late to learn — despite what that tired adage says about old dogs and new tricks
Learning a skill is more than fun. It promotes connections and novel ideas and keeps the brain sharp. Research has shown that older learners can pick up knowledge fairly easily, given the right learning environments and support. A 2019 study published in The Journals of Gerontology found that adults ages 58 to 86 who took classes 15 hours per week to learn several skills — such as Spanish, drawing or photography — not only acquired new talents but also improved their cognitive functioning to match that of adults 30 years younger, after just 1.5 months.
So don’t be afraid to try pottery, even if you’ve always been more math-oriented. Or expand your knowledge of the cosmos with an online astronomy class, even if your last science class was decades ago. You can acquire many new skills for free or at very little cost by tapping into resources within your community.
Ready to nurture your inner scholar without breaking the bank? Here’s how:
1. Enroll in a lifelong learning program
Many colleges and universities offer free, noncredit courses and workshops as part of their lifelong learning programs for students 50 and older. Some even offer older adults free or low-cost access to credit-earning academic classwork, so you can work toward a degree, if you wish. The University of Kentucky’s (UK) Donovan Scholarship, for example, covers regular course tuition and fees for Kentucky residents 65 or older.
Jeffrey Jones, 73, a retired math and technology resource teacher from Lexington, Kentucky, used the Donovan Scholarship benefit to study his first love: music theory and composition. Jones has completed several chamber orchestra compositions, one of which was performed professionally. “I started taking these classes because I wanted to learn to write music. I wanted to train my ear, and that was going to be enough for me,” Jones says. “I had no idea that there might be an outlet for other people to actually hear my work.”