Why It’s Harder to Learn New Skills as You Grow Older


Recently, I decided that it was time to learn how to drive a car, despite already being close to 30. In my class, all my classmates were below 20, which made me feel a little out of place and older. They seemed more adept at it, so I realized that it took me longer to catch on to the practicality of driving. This led me to the conclusion that either my capabilities of learning were dwindling, or driving is just a hard thing by essence and not everyone is made for it. Doing some homework over this which I will share in today’s article, I concluded that our ability to learn is expected to hit bumps somewhere along the way of aging.

A lot of us notice that new skills are harder to pick up as we age. Which is often irritating especially to the person that likes learning and evolving. But what underlies this? A few reasons can be pointed out for these changes, which will help us be flexible in our learning strategies and remain intelligent and interested forever.

Loss of Brain Plasticity

One of the main reasons why learning new skills gets more challenging with age is a reduction in brain plasticity. Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is the brain’s potential to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Essential in learning and adjusting to new conditions is this feature. The brain is very plastic during childhood, and one can quickly learn a new piece of information or new skills. This quality of plasticity lessens with aging. Neural pathways in the brain get more fixed, which makes it more challenging for new ones to be formed. This denotes that the learning of something new requires more effort and repetition.

Cognitive Decline

Another contributing factor to losing the ability to learn a new skill in old age is cognitive decline. Research tells us that some of the mental functions, such as processing speed, working memory, and executive function, tend to deteriorate with age. This can slow the processing of new information and make it more difficult to remember and apply knowledge gained. For example, consider that a report in the Psychological Bulletin indicates how older adults often experience slower processing abilities; this may place them in a difficult position to learn new tasks that are demanding quick thinking and response timing (Salthouse, 2004).

Life Experience and Habits

As we go through different phases of life, an accumulation of our life experiences and well-embedded habits in the mind is developed. This can be an added advantage at some points but can bring rigidity to the mind to create new ways of thinking and acting. Our brains are wired to work within familiar patterns and routines—something that, more often than not, becomes a barrier to learning new skills that require a different approach.

Motivation and Time Availability

Another significant factor is motivation and availability of time. Younger people generally have much time and are driven by the need to learn new skills. On the other hand, adults have jobs, family obligations, and other engagements, which may act as time constraints for them. That can severely impede the time and energy one can afford to learn something new. In addition, there may be a decline in self-determination with age. Learning a new skill does require commitment and the ability to stay the course. Without the motivation or apparent purpose, it can be tough to continue the effort over time.


Strategies for Overcoming Learning Challenges

Although learning new skills might be more difficult for older learners, it is by no means impossible. Here are some strategies to help overcome these challenges:

  • Stay Mentally Active: Engage in activities that challenge your brain, such as puzzles, reading, and learning a new language. Staying mentally active may help to maintain brain plasticity.
  • Divide New Skills into Smaller Pieces: This brings small and manageable chunks of the new skill. It reduces the overwhelming feeling and pushes one towards progress by building up towards completion.
  • Physical Activity: Regular physical exercise can also help your brain to stay healthy by supporting cognitive functions and the learning process.
  • Be positive and patient: Keep a positive attitude and exercise patience with yourself. Learning new skills requires time and it is so important to celebrate small victories.

I try to be positive and patient by dismissing the thinking of being old; anyway, I’m still young, in the prime age to survive. So, I think I can master this skill and drive my car on the highway soon enough.


  • Salthouse, T. A. (2004). What and When of Cognitive Aging. Psychological Bulletin, 130(2), 251–271.


(担当:Aishah Satouf)






しかし、その根底にあるものは何でしょうか? これらの変化にはいくつかの理由が挙げられます。







研究によれば、処理速度、作業記憶、実行機能などの一部の精神機能は加齢とともに衰える傾向があります。これにより、新しい情報の処理が遅くなり、得た知識を記憶し適用するのが難しくなります。たとえば、『Psychological Bulletin』誌に掲載された報告によると、高齢者はしばしば処理能力の低下することが多く、新しいタスクを学ぶのが難しくなることが示されています(Salthouse, 2004)。










  • 精神的に活発でいる:パズルや読書、新しい言語の学習など、脳を刺激する活動に参加しましょう。精神的に活発でいることは脳の可塑性を維持するのに役立ちます。
  • 新しいスキルを小分けにする:新しいスキルを小さくて扱いやすい塊にすることです。圧倒される感覚を減らし、完成に向けて積み重ねることで、進歩に向かわせます。
  • 身体活動:定期的な運動は認知機能をサポートし、学習プロセスを支えることで脳を健康に保つのに役立ちます。
  • ポジティブで忍耐強く:ポジティブな態度を保ち、自分に対して忍耐強くありましょう。新しいスキルを学ぶには時間がかかるため、小さな成功を祝うことが重要です。




  • Salthouse, T. A. (2004). What and When of Cognitive Aging. Psychological Bulletin, 130(2), 251–271.