As we age, many women begin to feel invisible and disconnected from the wider world. Ageism is recognized as the "last acceptable prejudice" and there is no wonder that women worry about being invisible, lonely, and isolated. The fear of becoming alone and unfulfilled can appear all too real on the horizon.
However, engaging in lifelong learning is an incredible way to stay engaged, maintain a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and reduce the negative effects of the next triple whammy affecting women: gender, ageism, and loneliness.
There is a solution that does require self-leadership, but reaps multi-faceted benefits. This blog is about committing to lifelong learning and to convince you that lifelong learning is good for your best interest.
1. Lifelong Learning Keeps Your Mind, Body, and Spirit Active:
Engaging in lifelong learning is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp. Learning keeps your brain active and healthy by providing an array of high-quality challenges with impressive returns on investment - like obtaining relevant information and converting new knowledge into new experiences and skill sets.
Lifelong learning also benefits your physical, emotional, and spiritual being in many ways. Yoga, dance, musical instruments, languages, and creative art ignite the brain, body, and spirit. Learning that ignites thinking and encourages movement and fitness in your body makes you look good and feel good which has benefits for longevity and a healthier life.
2. Lifelong Learning Fights Ageism:
Ageism is a societal issue that is becoming more prevalent. Ageism has been exposed as the "last acceptable prejudice" and any prejudice is unacceptable. Many women who are approaching the crossroads of 60 are feeling that as they age, they are being wrongly and unfairly judged as less valuable or productive which leads further to lack of respect and unequal treatment. Many women moving into their 70s are championing the fight against gender-specific ageism. They are recruiting allies.
By continually learning and growing, you are a valued ally. You challenge ageist beliefs, demonstrate and reinforce your value, and contribute to breaking down ageist stereotypes. At this point, I remind you that we must all check our own biases that discriminate against our older selves. I encourage all women to avoid internalizing stereotypical messages about women and age and to refuse to participate in the stereotypical narrative such as ageist jokes and self-deprecating humour.
Instead of feeling isolated by societal norms that dictate that we should slow down (at a "certain age"), your commitment to continuously grow, engage, debunk age-based myths, and break down age-based stereotypes will enhance your well-being and contribute to the well-being of others.
3. Lifelong Learning Fights Loneliness:
Loneliness can occur at any time in a person's life. However, loneliness tends to be more frequent as we age. We become more vulnerable to feeling invisible. Participating in lifelong learning opportunities educates us while also providing a social connection. Added benefits include connecting intellectually and socially with multi-generations. Learning activities might include taking a class with others, attending lectures, or joining a self-development club or study group. When you add an element of social interaction to lifelong learning, you benefit from creating meaningful connections with others who share similar interests.
4. Lifelong Learning Boosts Self-Trust and Self-Actualization:
Learning new things will leave you feeling empowered, energized, and enthusiastic about your life. We could easily slip into lamenting the days when we had the energy, enthusiasm, and brain power to try new things. However, those days won't leave us if we remain committed to learning and acquiring new skills.
Obtaining new knowledge and utilizing new skills builds self-trust. For decades, the concept of "self-confidence" has been touted as a deficiency that affects women's success and accomplishment. The concept has been linked to low self-esteem and imposter syndrome. However, taking control of our self-development and self-leadership is self-fulfilling and a key link to self-actualization. Our sense of accomplishment builds trust in our continued ability and capability to do what's best for ourselves.
Facing challenges and succeeding in acquiring new knowledge, utilizing new skills, and even enjoying the process reinforces that you are never too old to try something new and never too old to experience awe and joy in who your are now.
5. Lifelong Learning Provides New Opportunities and New Wonder:
Delving into new areas of interest opens doors to new opportunities that you might not have been aware of before. You might discover a new interest, a new hobby, or a new topic that excites you. Your excitement might turn on enthusiasm and motivation to create a new professional or new business opportunity. In a 2020 report on female entrepreneurship later in life referenced and linked in the USA Today article below, twice as many women said they wanted to realize "a long-held ambition". 1
You might simply wish to explore and indulge for the pure enjoyment of learning something new that creates awe and wonder. You don't need permission. Through investing in yourself and your self-growth, you might find exciting new life opportunities all around you.
As women entrepreneurs or executives over 60 years old, our commitment to staying engaged, fulfilled, and mentally sharp is crucial. Engaging in lifelong learning provides numerous benefits to counter ageism, loneliness, and isolation. Lifelong learning opposes the myth that we are doomed to lose relevance, value, and visibility as we age. Lifelong learning provides ongoing intellectual and emotional stimulation, inspires new interests, and strengthens social connections.
Never stop yourself from learning something new. Never give up a learning opportunity that is challenging but that enables you to live your life to the fullest. This is the life you deserve and perhaps the life you have dreamt of for decades.
References and Resources:
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- "It's never too late": Entrepreneurial spirit drives older women, Mariel Padilla, USA Today, January 6, 2021
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