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Never Too Old to Learn

Is there an age limit on learning? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe that one is never too old to learn. I would like to invite you to read this personal essay on my lived experience as a mature age student with disabilities.

The Motive

I love writing. Writing is my thing. Stories come to me, and I sit at the laptop, dance my fingers across the keys, and pour my mental movie onto the screen. However, I am not the most awesome writer in the world. In fact, I have a lot of improvements that can be made in a lot of places. Wearing my glasses when I edit is a big one. Editing my writing with a fine-tooth comb is another. Structure, conciseness, keeping it together, and punctuation (especially pesky commas and apostrophes) are also areas of improvement in my writing.

The Journey

During May 2022, living as a boarder (which means I’m essentially homeless and still am), I was looking for some free courses on the internet to improve my skills. My imagination is great, but the delivery is not always so. Eventually, however, I stumbled across a website offering a university degree. It wasn’t the search parameters I had placed in the engine, but, I thought, why not research this a little further?

Or maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should just stop right there before trying for something I obviously can’t do. I am disabled and a victim of all forms of abuse, both as a child and an adult. You wouldn’t believe the number of men and women who told me how stupid and useless I was. Furthermore, my family (including my children) each added their ten cents worth to devalue me. Let’s be real. I never even got my high school certificate. Finally, there is the fact that I was 50 at the time. In other words, I’m old. Way too old to go to university, especially with a background like mine. “Never too old to learn” is not a phrase I would have attached to myself.

Leap Of Faith

But, why not try? I needed something to do with my time. Furthermore, as I said earlier, my writing needs improvement. It was an all-online degree at a local university. The format was safe, and suited my disabilities. The worst that could possibly happen was that my application would be rejected, which I fully expected. After all, I thought, they wouldn’t be looking at my age or background and thinking that she deserves a chance after all she has been through. I figured they would be thinking, “she could be too old to learn”.

So, I gathered my documents and uploaded them, filled out the application form, and sent it off. Yes, I was a little nervous, but I figured whatever was going to happen would happen. My life is very challenging. I constantly deal with abusive people, both in my living environment and elsewhere. Some of the abuses are covert. Others are overt. Then there are my physical disabilities, which cause pain and limit mobility. Also, I’m neurodivergent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Life hasn’t been kind. So, I did not expect to get into university, especially with nothing but a Diploma to get me there.

Guess what? I got accepted. That was a year and a half ago. I am halfway through my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. Furthermore, I’m transferring to a double degree in Creative Writing and Professional Writing and Publishing. Who says I’m never too old to learn, eh?

Never Too Old To Learn

Mature age student Louise Kaestner is never too old to learn.
Mature age student Louise Kaestner.
Source: Personal photo.

For me, education did not stop in the online learning environment, though it could have. I’ve never been a go-getter or a doer. I’m not one of these amazing, outgoing, incredible, dynamic people who seem to have the whole world falling at their feet. I’m average.

However, I realised early on that this education was not free. I’m paying thousands of dollars a semester to receive this experience. At the moment, I’m in debt because I’m lucky enough to live in a system where the government loans you the money for your education on the premise that you will find employment once you finish and pay it back.

This means I want my money’s worth. I scoured my university’s website for various opportunities. I joined their volunteer group. Furthermore, I searched for other extra-curricular activities and found a writing club. Even though I’m an online student, I took my education further. This transformed it from education to quality education.

1.5 years later, I am still loving university, even as the decrepit, toothless, grey-haired, old woman that I am. I became president of the writers’ club and now have several volunteer jobs, one of which is at THRIVE as a writer. Furthermore, I went on a trip to India with other students in my discipline.

The experiences I’ve had have been so special, especially considering where I started out. I will never be rich or famous, and I might not even get a full-time (or any) job at the end of this, but I will say the journey is well worth it.

What Do We Mean When We Say We Are Never Too Old To Learn

We mean, and we really do mean, that age is not a barrier to education. The right to an education at any age is a human right. This idea that we do become too old to learn may have its basis in diseases, such as dementia, that inflict cruelties on the elderly. In the past, people didn’t understand ageing the same as we do today. With stereotyping, people assumed that as you got older, you got stupider. This is simply not true.

Why Must We Focus on Remaining Never Too Old To Learn?

Let’s face it, learning is good for you. When we learn new things, those neurotransmitters fire off in our heads and create new neural pathways. In turn, this reduces the risk of dementia. Another good reason to keep learning is it’s a reason to live, it gives you purpose and connection to people, the community, and society. It builds value in your life and expands your mind. You learn other points of view and ways of thinking. You have experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have sitting in front of the television or scrolling through social media. It takes you away from an illusory world and plants you in the real one.

Also, who knows what your education could do for society? Imagine if you had the skills and education to create sustainable inventions or develop solutions that address our current climate crisis. Every person counts, as do their education and other circumstances in their lives. Humanity is only as strong as the weakest individual in society, so it is up to each of us to fulfil not only our potential but also encourage others to explore their own. To hold someone else back will only hold humanity back. If my words seem flippant, do spend some time pondering them, turning them over in your mind, dismantling them and recreating them. You will begin to see what I do.

moving forward Ensuring We Are Never Too Old To Learn

You see, education isn’t just about going to an institution, sitting there, and passively learning. It’s about getting out there and doing it, making the most of the opportunities you can find. I learned a long time ago that opportunities often don’t come to find you unless you are born into the higher classes of society. You must hunt down opportunities, put in what you can, and hope for a positive outcome.

You, dear reader, will never be too old to learn. And neither will I.

So, let us move forward together, encouraging and uplifting each other, pointing out each other’s strengths rather than weaknesses, and journeying into thrivable future as a united humanity.

Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.”

United Nations.
  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Clean Energy
  8. Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities
  12. Responsible Consumption
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnership for the Goals

Education ticks off every one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without an education, not one goal will be achieved. However, the most important goal that education addresses is SDG 4quality education“. A quality education is important, not only to teach people the things they want and need to learn, but also to educate them in skills, such as problem-solving.

Problem-solving is a necessary skill to mitigate climate change. Without education, we won’t have the necessary mental capacity to tackle a single global issue assailing our planet. An education isn’t only for the privileged; it’s for everybody.

So often in life, we see privileged people sitting on their privileges and acting entitled. When someone who is underprivileged gets a chance, I believe they have so much more to offer humanity in the way of service and problem-solving. This is because they have the life experience of being a “have not”, and understand the impacts of being underprivileged in detailed ways that a privileged person wouldn’t. Underprivileged people who’ve managed to lift themselves up from the murk speak with authenticity and truth when it comes to their lived experience. This can’t be faked.

A Thrivable Framework

What is THRIVE? It is The Holistic Regenerative Innovative Value Entity. The word thrive also means flourishing. As you can see, the anagram and the definition tie into each other. THRIVE forms the basis for the THRIVE Framework. It is a transdisciplinary, holistic modelling system. This model is called the Systemic Holistic Model (SHM).

The SHM uses back-casting to solve problems. This method uses a way of envisioning the desired outcome and then work out the steps necessary to get there. But wait, there’s more! The SHM uses 12 Foundational Focus Factors (FFFs) to guide the decision-making processes used in back-casting. Furthermore, these FFFs are the pathway, the tactics, to achieve the strategy, which are the SDGs whose ultimate aim is creating a thrivable future for everyone, including you and me.

Entity Model

Entity model is one of THRIVE’s 12 FFFs. Its aim is to navigate what an entity can do. An entity can be anything from a small single-celled organism to the entire cosmos. These models shape the boundaries that outline their limits. THRIVE’s logo, a ciambella chart, outlines two important boundaries for humanity to adhere to. One is a social floor, denoting the minimum for an entity’s survival. The other is an environmental ceiling, where too many resources are taken from the environment. An education links into this FFF by ensuring people remain above the social floor through education.


Another one of THRIVE’s FFFs is multi-capital. Multi-capital is about understanding that capital is not only financial. Real capital takes into account other forms of capital, such as social and human capital. Education plays a key role in human capital. When a business has an educated employee, this is part of their multi-capital and can be listed as an asset.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is also a FFF. It is about looking at the big picture to solve the problems. We’ve all heard the phrase “everything is connected”. Well, it is. Systems thinking views the issues bearing these connections in mind. Education plays a key factor in developing the mind in such a way as so that it can see how the various parts of different systems interconnect and impact each other.

You’re Never Too Old To THRIVE

Would you like to keep thriving with us and continue learning about sustainability, climate change, the SDGs, and the THRIVE Framework? If so, please visit our homepage, sign up to our newsletter, subscribe to our YouTube channel, listen to our podcast, or attend one of our awesome webinars that features guest speakers and experts in their fields.


  • Louise Kaestner

    I love writing. When I write I get lost for hours. Writing is, in essence, how I found myself. Something else which I love is volunteering. I volunteer in various roles for several organisations. With THRIVE I can do the two things I enjoy the most. Helping THRIVE to become a sustainable superpower blanketing the globe with wisdom and knowledge is one of my favourite gigs.