Why it's never too late to learn

Written by
Charlotte Ricca-Smith

14 Apr 2015

14 Apr 2015 • by Charlotte Ricca-Smith

Much has been written and reported about the importance of physical activity. Stepping away from desk, or shifting off the sofa for an hour or so can reduce the risk of major illnesses and increase life expectancy.

But what about exercising your mind? When was the last time your challenged your white matter out of the work place? Once we get past our 20s its all to easy to get caught up in the mundanity of modern life.

Paying the bills, dealing with family and running a house can stop us from the doing the things we love. Do you even know what you enjoy doing outside of work? Going on a course enables you to reconnect with yourself and reignite your excitement for life.

Journalist Emma Richardson was inspired to go on a sewing course after watching the BBC's Great British Sewing Bee.

"I hadn't sat at a sewing machine since I was at school and had never even considered it before," she says. "But I loved the first course so much I signed up for another and have just made a Roman blind for my office.

"It's so rewarding and it gives me a chance to completely switch off from the day engage my brain in a whole new, creative way. It's a real challenge but also lots of fun and I'm met some lovely people, too."

Life coach Suzanne Bond says it's never to late to learn. The 42-year-old mother of two's recent foray into self-education was a Level 3 counselling course.

"I wanted to add some different people skills training to my NLP and coaching qualifications," she says. "I love going on courses, always have. You meet new people, have your brain stimulated, get to learn new skills and even get qualifications that can be used in your career.

"As well as the counselling course I have done upholstery, life drawing, singing, yoga teacher training, a range of painting courses and photography."

Life, after all begins at 40, but it's also pretty good for the 70-plus. The Telegraph has an on-going series that looks at VOAP (very old age pensioners) taking up new pursuits. They range from playing the piano to sky-diving. Now what's your excuse?

According to a report by the National Union of Students, mature students are opportunists in the best sense of the word: "They take the opportunity to develop themselves, their careers and those of their families through higher education."

However, their research also reveals 83 per cent of mature students cite balancing study with other commitments as the biggest challenge when signing up for a course.

Even with her previous experience, Suzanne admits her counselling course was a "bit of a shock" in terms of workload.  As well as the one day a week she signed up to there was weekly homework, on top of a dissertation, research and presentation project and much more.  

"I didn't look into the timetable for completion of the different elements of the course as I thought that it would be pretty straight forward," she says. "As a working mum of two children, juggling all the elements became more and more tricky.

"I managed to finish the course but found it very stressful. In hindsight I would have liked to have found a course that took 12 months and not six."

Her advice is to research the content and relevant deadlines associated with the course.  She also says to look at a number of course providers to ensure the one you sign up for 'feels' right for you and your circumstances.

"You need to make sure you know what you are taking," she advises. "But once you've found the course that suits you, commit to it and anything is possible."