Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More Lessons to Come

 As long as we live, we really ought to keep on learning. The other option to that is being stagnant or dying. Tough words, but they’re true. Think of seniors who take up university studies. They now have the time to devote to it and they want to keep learning. Or people who do crossword puzzles to keep their minds active. 

I teach seniors at a community centre. Now that they have more time on their hands, and perhaps a little extra cash, they often strive to learn new things and keep their gray matter (brains) working. In my class they’ve learned about writing. Two of my students have written their life story and had them published. Other classes I've taught include learning about setting up a blog and writing posts, as well as storytelling. Bucket list or continuing to learn doesn’t matter, but what does is their willingness to keep on being a student, regardless of their age.

Recently I watched a video of seniors in a dance lesson on a Facebook post. In the article and accompanying video, the writer quoted a study out of McGill University in Canada in which researchers and participants discovered that “learning the steps necessary to tango actually improved brainpower and balance.” The participants were seniors who had “experienced a fall within the last year and were scared of falling again.” Otherwise the seniors were healthy. It showed that when we learn something new, the brain develops new pathways and the mind becomes more alert.

Patricia McKinley’s current research program through McGill University investigates leisure-based physical activities that promote health and well-being in vulnerable populations, especially those that use dance as a rehabilitation tool. I’d like to see some of those studies take place in our fair cities and help people I know.

What I do know, that many mature citizens are also learning, is the balance between learning and continued enjoyment of life. I’m a bit younger than many of those I teach but I decided before Christmas that I wanted to learn to play guitar and was planning to take lessons. My youngest daughter had a guitar sitting around while she still lived at home, and I had played with it some, but there were just too many demands on my time and I let it go, but now… I’m taking lessons. 

I took my daughter shopping with me and we found a guitar that had a good sound and was the right size for me. We also got a few necessary items, including new coated strings that would be easier for a beginner. And I, too, have joined others taking lessons as a mature learner—developing new neural paths that the art demands. Like rocking and rubbing your tummy at the same time. With the guitar, one hand is strumming (hmm, still working on that one), and the other hand playing the chords and notes and trying to coordinate the two. But I’m determined. Some of the chords that were hard at first are now easier, and my instructor says the strumming is coming along. He’s been playing for 60 years, so he knows strumming. Thus I have hopes that new neural paths are developing in my brain that will allow me to accomplish this task. I have a couple of tough chords yet to master.

So today, with a bit of cash, I’m going to gather a few extra accessories, ones that seem essential since I’ve begun this journey. No big stage plans, just something I’ve often wanted to learn. And now a buddy to play guitar with would be helpful, and I can play whatever tunes I want to learn. I’m happy that my teacher likes gospel songs, so they’ll be in my repertoire too. 

As my teacher says, "The road to Carnegie Hall, is practice, practice, practice."  
"I'm not planning on Carnegie," I joked with the recreation coordinator after the second lesson, "but I will  practise." And I am doing just that. There's more than one way to worship.


"Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts." Psalm 105: 2a

Carolyn Wilker is an author, editor, avid gardener and a perpetual learner.


Peter Black said...

Well - Hello, "Evergreen and ever-growing Carolyn [Carnegie] Wilker"! (I hope you can forgive me for that.) Those terms formulated in my gray matter the moment I finished reading your enjoyable post, Carolyn.
What you share about the benefits of activities that exercise the body and stimulate the mind in seniors is borne out in my involvement in nursing homes and seniors' residences. Congratulations to you on your learning to play guitar, and also regarding your effective teaching; it's great that two of your writing students have published their memoirs. ~~+~~

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Thanks, Peter. Your response was rather entertaining. I read it a couple of times before I had a chance to answer.
I'm rather proud of those two students who wrote their memoirs. One has gone to great lengths to promote her book and went into a second printing. I'm proud of the others too, of course. Some of them shared their work for the first time and learned to give feedback to other students.
Thanks as always for your kind comments.

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