By John L. Miller
Common wisdom is that the older you get, the less able to learn you are. Recent research says that as long as the subject is healthy (e.g. no degenerative neural disease, no dementia), the ability to learn doesn’t appear to decline with age.
You remain able to learn the same sorts of things in your 40s and 30s as in your 20s.
I believe one category of skill is harder to learn for an older person than a younger one: those whose foundations are taught in school today, but weren’t 20 or 30 years ago.
For example, elementary age kids in the school district near me are doing web search and creating powerpoint presentations, and presenting them on projectors. They’re in an environment where they’ve been exposed to powerpoint and search for their entire educational life.
Someone who is 20 will have an easier time learning Word or Excel (if they don’t already know it), because they have a stronger foundation in related technology and methods which a 50 year old does not. However, take a 20-year-old who was educated the same way the 50 year old was for their primary and secondary education, and I would bet dollars for donuts both (as category representatives) would have the same learning aptitude.
Summing up, no skills are inherently harder to learn after age 30. It’s possible people confound having or not having a related foundational skill (such as presentation software) with ability to learn.
John L. Miller has a Ph.D. in computer science.
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