Photo of Dr Leanna Manuel

Lifelong Learner

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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Bah Humbug. Poppycock. Rubbish. I am proud to call myself a lifelong learner. As an old dog, I am committed to learning new tricks in a variety of subjects.

I have spent a large part of my life in formal education. From kindergarten through graduate school I think the total is 22 years. In addition, there were many years of piano lessons, ballet lessons (very briefly), and martial arts lessons. I also took a few classes in conversational Japanese. One might think I would have tired of school but in reality I love learning and I love school. Currently I am taking lessons in Gaelic, choral composition, and voice. Based on my career path I also am required to do continuing education classes. I don’t necessarily include those in my personal definition of lifelong learning. Those classes aren’t based on my curiosity and desire to know and understand something. Instead those are based on what somebody else wants to me to know.

Lately I’ve seen quite a few articles on lifelong learning. Brian Fairbanks posted an article for Phoenix University (August 2021). He defined a lifelong learner as someone who seeks continuous development and improvement of knowledge and skills for employment and/or personal fulfillment. This would include both formal and informal learning opportunities. I’m focused on the personal fulfillment aspect at this stage of my life.

Emma Parkhurst, Extension Assistant Professor at Utah State University, wrote that lifelong learning may include returning to school, taking stand-alone workshops, or using an app to learn a new language or cooking skills. Emma also noted that the important component is that the activity is useful, interesting, meaningful, or enjoyable. I’m not sure how useful my Gaelic lessons are but they are definitely interesting and enjoyable.

Many articles cite benefits of lifelong learning. These often include:

I Can and I Will affirmation
  • increased self esteem
  • increased confidence
  • improved cognition and memory
  • decreased risk for dementia
  • increased social connection (expanded base of like-minded people)
  • positive feelings of accomplishment

That sure sounds good. I have noted several of these benefits, particularly the increased self esteem, increased social connection, and positive feelings of accomplishment. As for the decreased risk of dementia, I am an “old dog” so only time will tell about that.

Have you ever wanted to learn a language, explore cake decorating, play a musical instrument, or learn the tango? Why not give it a try? Join the ranks of lifelong learners. Experience the pleasure. Reap the benefits.


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