2014 is here and it’s a “big birthday” year for both of us. Jon is counting the days to his 65th birthday and Susan can’t be too cruel in her birthday celebration plans poking fun at his age since she turns 60 a few weeks later. We confess to spending a fair bit of energy lately looking at the possibility of retirement - calculating how and when is the optimum time to begin collecting retirement income from various sources.
But one thing we’re not doing is thinking about is stopping - or even slowing down - on learning new things. Learning is fun - that’s what we always told our kids, right? Does that change just because we’re older? It doesn’t matter much what we’re learning - whether it’s programming languages or tools or dancing or yoga. Jon has been having tons of fun with his Arduino that he received for Christmas from a friend who understands (and shares) his thirst for learning.
One of the more frustrating aspects of our jobs when we’re teaching on-site classes is dealing with those who seem to feel they are too old to learn how to code differently or how to use a new tool to edit their code. Some of them actually tell us they are too old or they have just done it the old way for so long, they can’t change. At that point, Jon especially loves to challenge them to an age comparison - “I’ll bet you’re not older than me. If I can learn it, you can too.” Others don’t actually voice the sentiment but seem resistant to the new tools and techniques and often bring up at some point during our days there that they are looking forward to their retirement in a few months.
Hey - we’re looking forward to our retirement as well. But that doesn’t reduce our enthusiasm to learn new things. Learning is never “wasted.” So what if you’re planning to retire in six months or a year? Does that mean you’re wasting your energy learning to write more effective code using techniques or languages that didn’t exist decades ago when you started or that you should continue to use a toolset to edit your code that slows you down?
The very process of learning and doing new things enhances your ability to continue to learn other new things. So look at it this way. Learn how to use RSE (and its related tools) to write your code or learn to write subprocedures called as functions instead of subroutines or learn to write more readable free format code - even if you only have a few months left in your coding career to use them. Why? Because you want to keep your brain in shape while you’re working for however many months or years that may be so that you’ll be ready to learn more about golfing, sailing, bird watching, gardening or whatever it is you want to do in your retirement. And continuing to learn has been shown to keep Alzheimer’s disease from striking.
Now, don’t get us started on the number of students we see in their forties who also seem to feel they cannot or should not learn something new. It’s not always the oldest students in our classes that resist change. That’s even more frustrating and a story for another day - assuming we can think if something constructive to say about it, that is.