When presented with learning technology as an older adult, I often responded that I had a finite number of neurons left to absorb new information, so I had to think carefully about how I wanted to use them. It turns out that recent research has proven me wrong. Neurons do regenerate into old age.
More importantly, new pathways between neurons can be created throughout the lifespan. This is called brain plasticity We see this clearly with stroke patients who have lost speech or movement. Many of them can “re-learn” by building new pathways between neurons often in parts of the brain where those connections did not originally exist.
A neuron without ways to communicate with other cells is useless. Electrical impulses and chemical substances called neurotransmitters stimulate the neuron. It in turn fires across pathways to create mental activities such as memory, thinking, and feeling. It is particularly encouraging that new pathways have been found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved with memory. (For a detailed description of neurons, go to HowStuffWorks.)
Based on these findings, it’s clear that I don’t have to be so parsimonious about my neurons. And, I no longer have an easy excuse for avoiding learning about technology. Neither do you. The amount we can learn may not be infinite, but it’s reasonably large enough so that we don’t have to worry about squandering brain matter. So how do we begin? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you start:
- What is it about technology that interests you? Even if your immediate answer to this question is “Nothing,” think again about what would enhance your use of technology. Is it learning to text or email better? Is it understanding how technology is changing the world? Is it being able to Skype with your grandchildren?
- How much time do you want to spend learning? Be realistic. Do you want to sign on for a multi-segment course? Or, would you rather have one-shot experiences such as seminars or videos?
- How would you like to learn? If you like to figure things out in private, there are many opportunities that can be accessed easily. Googling the subject matter can get you simple up-to-date information. Senior Planet has great tech tips and videos. Go on YouTube to see videos created to teach technology.
If you would rather learn with others, check out your local library, community center, or adult school for workshops. Join Meetups on technology in your area.
Don’t forget the stores where you purchased your cell phone or computer. They have trained personnel to help you. Or just ask a person near you who is working on an electronic device to teach you a particular application. Most people are very helpful.
Learning technology may not be easy, but it will be worthwhile. It will give you better access to information and communication, and lessen the frustration you may be feeling in a world that is becoming more and more technology centered.