When did you get old? Teaching old dogs new tricks!

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0728_bulldog_wikimedia_commons_looking_at_us.jpgCourtesy Wikimedia Commons.Dr. Wayne Baker is away. Our guest writer is Terry Gallagher, communications director for a non-profit environmental organization.

Don’t believe the cliché, because the evidence is clear: You can teach an old dog new tricks.

“Whatever they say about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks, it is patently untrue,” according to the charismatic Tufts University veterinarian Nicholas Dodman. “Old dogs may not learn as quickly as they did when they were young, but with time and patience, most older dogs can be taught to do anything that a young dog can.”

But we’re not really talking about dogs here. In Our Values this week, we’re asking: “When did you get old?” Exploring how and why some people (read organizations, businesses and governments) seem reluctant to tackle new challenges and adapt to changing circumstances.

As for individuals? Researchers on the MacArthur Foundation study Successful Aging report that “older people can, and do, learn new things—and they learn them well.”

Scholars John Rowe, M.D., and Robert Kahn, Ph.D., both members of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network, tell us that “research has demonstrated the remarkable and enduring capacity of the aged brain to make new connections, absorb new data, and thus acquire new skills.”

Some OurValues readers are echoing these conclusions in their comments: They don’t feel old—as long as they keep growing.

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

We’re asking, “When did you get old?”

But maybe we should be asking, “How do you stay young?”

What do you think?

Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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