Have a crack: Why it’s never too late to learn a new skill

Learning to swim or ride a bike is often seen as a childhood rite of passage, but what if you didn’t? The good news is you’re never too old to pick up new skills.

Perth mum-of-two Nicole Jameson says it was seeing the sheer enjoyment her sons – Max, 14, and 10-year-old Charlie – experienced riding their new electric skateboards that prompted her to ignore her qualms and have a go.

“Having two busy boys to keep up with means I’ve tried to up my prowess across a few different sports,” Nicole says.

“When the boys were trying out their new skateboards, I had a rush of nostalgia and thought I wanted to be part of that, so I gave it a go!”

While she admits the possibility of breaking a bone was top of mind, the digital strategist and founder of Dark Horse Agency says the experience was like an amusement park ride.

“There was a bit of fear and a bit of excitement, but it was so worth it,” she says.

Nicole’s not alone in wanting to have a crack at learning new skills as an adult.

new skills Nic Jameson

Summon your inner child’s courage

Physiotherapist and sports science expert Melanie McAuliffe says kids are expert at finding hobbies and learning new skills but somewhere on the path to adulthood, we stop trying new things.

“I’ve had more than my share of conversations with clients trying to learn new skills, ranging from riding a bike to swimming, dancing and even [doing] handstands,” Melanie says.

Melanie believes that what stops people from trying is the preconception of what’s required to perform the activity.

“There’s a fear of going forward; we put limits on ourselves and what we think we can do,” she says.

On the contrary, Melanie adds, it’s been proven time and again that the worst thing we can do for our physical and mental health is to sit still.

Leisure activities matter

A large body of research suggests how we spend our leisure time matters to our health – including a study that found spending regular time on a physical leisure activity has a positive impact on wellbeing and life satisfaction.

There are many other benefits that go along with the personal satisfaction of mastering a new skill, Melanie reveals.

“There’s the social side, in that if you take up a skill like swimming or bike riding, you’re going to be out and about and meeting people you wouldn’t normally meet,” she says.

“Depending on what you choose, there’s also the chance to improve your balance and mobility which, in turn, can lead to better posture, muscle strength, flexibility and sharper reflexes – all beneficial as we get older!”

New skills to try

According to the Royal Life Saving Society, one in four Australians admit they’re weak swimmers – or can’t swim at all – so swimming is one good place to start.

Surfing, indoor rock climbing and bike riding are other activities to try, but while all of these are possible to learn as an adult, it’s worth taking your time, Melanie advises.

“Go carefully and remember that when you’re a little more advanced in years, even things like standing on one leg in yoga can be harder than they look,” she says.

“Don’t try to ride a motorised scooter until you’ve mastered a non-motorised one – you need to invest some time in acquiring your new skill!”

Of course, not all new activities need to be physical.

Nicole says many older-style hobbies and skills are becoming “cool” again, especially since the rise of TikTok.

“With many parents starting or pivoting their businesses post-COVID and needing social media skills while also trying to keep up with the kids, developing some talents in that area can be handy, too,” Nicole says.

“I’d recommend looking for things like ‘Snapchat for beginners’ on Google as a starting point.”

Written by Liz McGrath.