Can an old dog really be taught new tricks? Or are their minds as stiff as their knee joints?
An 'old dog' certainly can learn new concepts, depending on the person, and that young people can also be just as close minded or stubborn.
Admittedly it is harder to learn new things when you’re older but again, much of it is down to attitude. It’s up to the individual. I’m a big believer of the individual over group stereotyping.
Young people have their opinions on things and you can’t shake them to accept a differing view. We were all young and quite opinionated. We/they saw the world in black and white. Especially today with the internet, people are able to find groups with the same thinking and then ‘groupthink’ becomes the norm. People want to fit in so they curb their thinking to suit.
Meanwhile, others are demonised. Just try to offer any member of those groups or ideology a differing opinion and watch the hateful hysteria come charging at you like a rampaging elephant protecting its young.
Older people too are just as guilty. Young and old, it really makes no difference. It’s just people. Most are very set in their ways of thinking and living. Everyone likes to claim that they’re open minded but I guarantee that once you start challenging their belief system in any way, they’ll close up shop and the anger will bubble up and over like a pot of boiling pasta. They’ve already had their belief systems reinforced by the type of material they read and absorb, whether it be articles, books, documentary’s, movies, memes, anything. Most people are like that.
(For the record, many assume that being ‘open-minded’ refers to someone’s sexual preferences. It’s so much more).
It’s the rare person who makes the effort to understand other concepts. ‘Oh no, they’re right wing! I couldn’t possibly listen to a word they say.’
‘Oh, they’re gay. I don’t care about their lifestyle. Just leave me out of it.’
‘They vote the opposite to me so they’re obviously ignorant.’
As we settle into middle age those belief systems are generally set in like concrete, whereas young people still have the potential to see other ways of thinking. Once they get into their thirties, they are exposed to different things. Plus, there’s no better teacher than life experience. At least there’s some POTENTIAL there.
Once something is ingrained for decades it’s very difficult to change. That’s understandable. Life gets a bit harder as we age with health issues and just getting tired from having to work and move through life, so learning new things don’t occur as often. There’s just not the time or energy that there once was.
It’s human nature to find comfort in the routine.
As for learning a new skill, it’s absolutely possible for an older person to do it. You hear of the occasional story of someone who got a degree at seventy or did something remarkable. It’s humanly possible. Just not common.
Children come into the world soaking up everything they see and hear like sponges. It’s how we learn. It’s how we know what the world actually IS. It’s how we learn languages. How many kids are mirror images of their parents?
When they become teenagers they seek out their own paths but are still very impressionable. They’ll more than likely copy one of their friends, a dominant figure in the group, or behave to impress those people or a new romantic interest.
In any regard, there’s great change and great scope to learn in these years. It’s also a chaotic time so it doesn’t always go very well. Most teenagers find those years dramatic. But they are willing to try things out as they still don’t really know what they like and don’t like. Some, not all. Some know from an early age exactly what interests them. (I was one. Yet still took stupid risks doing things I shouldn’t have done).
Nature versus nurture
And then there’s the whole argument of nature versus nurture. How much is already programmed into the DNA? Quite a lot. You can find siblings who were separated from a young age for example and grew up in different circumstances and be reunited later in life, even decades later and discover that they both have similar traits. That’s genetics.
You can’t rule out the environment however. Events help shape us, and can also bring us unstuck if it’s been a difficult upbringing. The way we think is determined by both genetics and our upbringing. Inquisitive parents usually lead to an inquisitive child in some way. However, by the late teen years, good luck trying to teach them new concepts that isn’t through standard education. Show me most twenty-year-old’s and I’ll show you someone with a closed mind.
“I’m not young enough to know everything.” Oscar Wilde.
In essence, we’re all old dogs set in our ways, even to our own detriment. We can’t escape ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Some are more open minded than others. Some are accepting of some things, as others' sexuality as one example but not other aspects, like people's religious beliefs.
Some are more open to learning new concepts and ways of thinking than others. Most aren’t but they’ll more than likely tell you they are. Dig a little deeper and they’ll reveal themselves.
At the end of the day, it’s really little to do with being older but the individual’s own character.
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