At age 59 Kirsty is completing her final year of the Bachelor of Arts & Design in Creative Industries at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT).
This is her second undergraduate degree, and complements her successful career as a freelance television producer, writer and director – which she is still doing while studying full-time. Whatever age, our brains still have the ability to learn and master new skills. Young people do not have a monopoly on energy, intelligence or aspiration.
One of the biggest barriers to learning, particularly for older learners, can be a lack of confidence. Older adults often underestimate the power of their own memories and fail to make the best use of their minds.
“You don’t realise how much general knowledge you have acquired over time until you have a conversation with someone in their twenties,” says Kirsty.
She says older people bring lots of experience, connections and curiosity to the classes, and they have a diminishing fear of failure.
“I used to be uneasy about failure but during your lifetime you know what it is like to fail yet you are still standing and getting up in the morning – and it’s OK.”
Taking on study later in life not only keeps your brain active, but it’s a great way to meet new people, make connections and tackle isolation, especially if you move to a new area.
Mature age or older learners are a diverse group; but they all tend to be very focussed, more settled and emotionally resilient. This year 17 per cent of students enrolled at NMIT are aged 50 plus.
Kirsty originally signed up for a one-year diploma programme but quickly became hooked.
“After one-year I realised there was so much more to learn, and the more you learn the more interest you have in learning.”
She says although the first few weeks of a new programme can feel a bit bewildering - the rewards are immense; new connections and new ways of seeing and thinking about things.
“The tutors have real world experience and are so generous with their knowledge. It opens up enormous possibilities.”
“When you are younger you are so busy trying to figure out which way is up, you don’t always appreciate the value of learning. Now I’ve had the opportunity to be reminded of how precious education is.”