By Judy Wagenblast
I’ve been on this senior pathway for a few years now. AARP solicitation. Wait staff looking at my gray hairs. My hair professional saying how much she likes my gray hairs, but asking if I want to try some color.
Yes, it’s true. By some people’s definition, I am a senior citizen. It’s not a designation that bothers me much, since I’ve weathered being “just a kid” throughout my 20s. I turned 30 the year the movie “10” came out with Bo Derek and proudly said I was “… more than 10 – I was 30!” At age 40, I held my LAST birthday party and at 50, planned my funeral. You get the picture.
But I’m like a kid still when it comes to learning. Some of the things I’ve tried, I now want some help learning how to do better. Those accomplishments I’ve never even tried, I still want to try. Pottery making on the wheel is on the list for this fall. I might try Spanish soon and brush up on my German for an upcoming trip or two. I might even sign up for welding and make lawn art – there were so many moments when I thought I needed a more physically active job.
When I owned a business, one of the great remarks I heard often from the kind of prospective employees I liked to interview was “I want to keep learning.” That was music to my ears because it also told me those people would always strive for better and consider new possibilities. Eventually hired or otherwise, those applicants would always hear me say I would “hire someone with the skills to serve the customer. Yet learning helps you serve your audience, your markets better, so it must always be attached to your work and your life.”
So from both personal and professional standpoints, my suggestion to all is to keep your mind open and learn something new every year. Regardless of your age or in spite of the fact you no longer need to grow for employment advancement – do it just for the opportunity to rally in creative, stimulating opportunities or just plain satisfaction!
One of the reasons I love my current work – I meet people of all ages who learn. Adults who want to be a better parent or employee or to explore an interest for a possible second career. Children who are curious and fascinated with almost everything that involves hands-on activity. Newly retired people who want to explore things they have not had the opportunity or time for before.
They all refresh me but when I hear another senior say they want to understand more about economics and the fiscal situation of our state – I know they will become more informed voters and engaged citizens and that might change the world or at least inspire a teenage grandchild too. Seniors tantalize me when they share of a goal to hike and explore nature at a national park that I have not yet traveled to myself – they will broaden their horizon and come home with stronger muscles and scenic images of the mountains, the ocean or the desert they can still see when they close their eyes.
Plain and simple, those of us who continue to learn at our slightly more advanced age (more than half a century and proud of it!) will have healthier lives and more joyful interactions with people and the planet.
Judy Wagenblast is a director of community education in Springfield.