Lynne Cope Hummell

One of our sons gave my husband and me a Christmas gift of a streaming music app, as a result of his adding a family plan to his subscription.

I think it will be a nice addition to my collection of apps – once I learn to use it. My husband felt the same way, though he said, “At my age, why do I really need to learn another app? I liked my old one, I had my music list, and I knew how it worked. This is going to take some time to learn.”

I started wondering about that. We’re past 60. Why do we need to learn something new?

Humans begin to learn as soon as they’re born. A cry brings a grownup running to discover if baby is hungry, sleepy, wet or hurt. Baby learns how to get attention without saying a word.

As we get older, we learn different things at various ages.

A child of about 2 will likely be in early stages of talking. At this age, we teach things that are both cute (holding up two fingers when asked “How old are you?”) and things that will be handy, like saying “Thank you” and how to hold a spoon.

We teach them how to potty, how to look both ways, and how not to approach a neighbor’s dog.

Closer to school age, kids need to know how to sit still, how to not talk when the teacher is talking, how to tie shoelaces, and how to dial 9-1-1 in an emergency (and what makes for an emergency).

By middle school, it would be helpful if preteens knew how to wash and dry their own clothes, how to sew on a button, and not to drink directly from the orange juice bottle in the fridge. They should know all 50 state capitals and the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Kids should know how to whistle, how to play “Chopsticks” on a real piano, and “I before E except after C, or when sounding like A, as in neighbor and weigh.”

Then, of course, puberty hits and all learning goes haywire. Don’t try to teach them anything!

Just kidding. Even though they think they know everything, we have to keep after them to learn how to properly and safely drive a car, what happens if they speed, and that they need to pay their own traffic fines.

They should know by now where babies come from, and how they got there – and they should know ways to prevent that from happening!

Of course, there are zillions of other things to learn: how to boil water, make cookies, change a tire, address an envelope, play chess. The list is endless.

We learn a lot in college – not the least of which is patience in filling out forms, how to get the most out of a class with 75 other students, and where to find the cheapest food on campus.

Lately, we are being told that in order to maintain brain health, we should strive to keep learning something new even as we get older. Doing crossword puzzles and working jigsaw puzzles is great, but it’s not the same as always learning.

Learning exercises the brain just like running exercises the body. Maybe it’s time to make adult education hip and cool.

So, I’m past 60 and I look forward to learning how to find and download new songs onto my phone. I think I can handle that.

Now if someone would just teach me how to cook rice that doesn’t stick together.