The following is an excerpt from our upcoming book, Don’t Stop Now: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life.
“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” ―Abigail Adams, former First Lady of the United States
We’ve all heard the stories about the grandmother who received her high-school diploma at sixty-four and went on to get a college degree, graduating at the top of her class at the age of sixty-eight. For baby boomers, the importance of having a good education was a mantra repeated in households across the nation. After high school, we had two choices: go to college to meet the man of our dreams and get married, or go to college and become a nurse or a teacher—a great choice until we stopped working to raise a family. At that point, the focus was on the kids: helping them with homework, driving them to music lessons, and picking them up from after-school activities. Many of us willingly gave up our lives to raise our children and support our husbands.
Some of us went on to graduate school, law school, or medical school, finding professions that sustained us and allowed us to have the freedom and flexibility previously available only to men. In spite of advancing education and training, however, many women born in 1946 (the earliest boomers) likely experienced the rampant sexism in the workplace that was depicted in the “Mad Men” television series.
And then 1967 brought the summer of love and everything changed.
For the first time, everyone—especially women— rebelled against the establishment. We burned our bras, protested against the Vietnam War, took control of abortion legislation, entered the political scene, and danced naked at Woodstock. With role models like political activists Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis, we acted out and demanded equal rights. We were busy women making it happen.
While our generation became highly educated, the concept of lifelong learning didn’t appear until the dawning of the age of the internet. Suddenly, information was available at our fingertips. Staying current with news, politics, films, books, and just about anything, for that matter, was more possible than ever before. The point: there is no excuse not to learn something new every single day. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Okay, so maybe you have some catching up to do. It doesn’t matter, because it’s never too late to seize the day and broaden your horizons. Why? For starters, learning for the sake of learning is good for the psyche and good for the soul. What’s more, expanded knowledge helps stimulate conversation when you get together with your buddies, so you’ll have something to talk about besides your grandkids, your aches and pains, or your upcoming surgery. (Actually, you should probably read up on the latter so you can ask your doctor pointed questions that might make him sit up and take notice before he replaces your knee.)
Even if you haven’t read anything more challenging than the Sue Grafton series in the last several years, it’s time to change your ways and add some educational material to the list. This chapter will give you lots of wonderful ideas for stimulating your brain and making an effort to keep up with younger generations.