Five ways to ensure you become a lifelong learner

Henry Ford once said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."

Lifelong learning is learning pursued throughout one’s lifetime. It can transcend sectors, goes beyond traditional schooling allowing for personal fulfillment, active citizenship, social inclusion, and employability and adaptability. Education necessitates an approach that promotes learning as a continuous process involving formal to non-formal and informal learning and includes everyone at all stages of life.

Read: Why focusing on teachers could improve the US education system

In countries such as China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and across Scandinavia since the 1990s throughout the mid-2000s, the term lifelong learning emerged as the preferred jargon over “lifelong education”. Organisations such as the European Union and the UNESCO both expanded the definition of lifelong learning as a platform that benefits both the individuals and the society. There are an estimated 604 million people aged 65 years and older and account for 8.2 percent of the global population.

Here are five ways to remain a lifelong learner after your retirement.

1. Keep active

It is important to remain energetic after retirement, because you’re as old as you feel. Sir Richard Branson only recently hit 65-years-old and explicitly stated he had no intentions of ever retiring, even after nearly five decades as one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Branson never attended university and instead opted to start and grow one of the most unorthodox Fortune 500 companies. 

Branson spends his time exploring the future of travel and space through Virgin Galactic and uses his influence to solve social, economic and political challenges on a global scale with some of the world’s most influential leaders, The Elders. He still kitesurfs and break the odd Guinness World Records from time to time. He continues to create and invest in new businesses under the Virgin Group, most recently launching Virgin Hotels and Virgin Cruises.

2. Start a new dream

It’s never too late to start a new dream even when you’ve just hit your sixties. With the first Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise opening in Utah in 1952, Colonel Harland David Sanders was at the age of 62. At age 65 he pushed to franchise his chicken concept further, crisscrossing the entire United States looking for potential restaurants and franchisees.

Read: How Finland built the world's most admired education system

This model would prove successful, allowing Colonel Sanders to expand internationally to more than 600 locations. He would eventually sell the business in 1964. He remained active for the next 16 years of his life as the face and goodwill ambassador of the global fast food brand. Colonel Sanders continues to be the company’s symbol to this day with KFC launching a new campaign in August 2015. If he was alive today, he’d be celebrating his 125th birthday this month (September 9th), donning his iconic white suit and black string tie sporting his goatee.

3. Stay employable and adaptable

Just because you’ve passed the retirement age doesn’t mean you can’t remain the perfect employee. Business tycoon and investment guru, known in most circles as the "Oracle of Omaha", Warren Buffett celebrated his 85th birthday in August.

As the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has stayed at the helm for 50 years, being named top money manager of the Twentieth Century in 1999 and in 2012, Time named Buffett one of the world's most influential people. Even after successfully battling prostate cancer that same year, he never slowed down. Buffett remains a creature of habit that spends 80 to 90 per cent of his day reading up to 500 pages amassing knowledge. While he is still largely disconnected from the online world and uses a flip phone, he still manages his companies superbly.

4. Find personal fulfilment

Understand the value of your influence as a person and use it for good causes. You don’t have to start your own foundation or charity, but you can dedicate your knowledge to one. Bill Gates took early retirement from his company, Microsoft, in June 2008 at 53 to devote his time entirely to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read: Should the education system change to reflect the new dynamics of entrepreneurship?

Since 1997, the Gates Foundation has administered vaccines and immunisations; established the Gates Millennium Scholars Program to help minority students graduate with advanced science degrees; established library work abroad in countries like Mexico, Ukraine, and Botswana; and launched Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to revitalise farming and promote food production and security. Most recently Gates funded the development and installation of the "Omniprocessor" by Janicki Bioenergy that makes drinking water, electricity and ash from human waste with an installation in Dakar, Senegal.

5. Lifelong learning is free

Thanks to the internet, we have access to a plethora of free sources online. Ensure you take advantage of platforms such as Codecademy that allows users to interactively learn how to code. You’re never too old to build your own website, mobile application, or video game.

 If you’re interested in social learning then Open Study might be ideal for you where you’ll end up meeting new people and making friends. Coursera facilitates online learning by partnering with some of the world’s top universities and organisations to offer free courses that include business, computer science, personal development, and social sciences.

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