We all want to live long, happy, and healthy lives, but reaching a ripe old age fit as a fiddle takes some work. As well as basic care for our bodies and minds like physical exercise and healthy eating, doctors and psychologists agree that the best way to avoid cognitive decline in adulthood is by developing new mental and physical abilities.

Surveys have shown that a stunning 50 per cent of adults over the age of 40 do not learn information every week, but being able to survive as an independent adult in today’s world means keeping up with a changing world, particularly technological advances. Healthcare providers are moving towards remote appointments, online billing and shopping are the norm, and entertainment is moving online. That means that failure to learn these skills fosters functional dependence. We simply have no alternative but to embrace the modern world and all its complications.

Learning a new skill is a natural four-stage process. The first stage involves you acknowledging that you do not know something. Imagine you get a puppy, and you do not know how to house train it. If you do not realise that this is something you have to learn, you could end up blaming the puppy.

Stage two is conscious incompetence. You know you need to learn or want to do something, but you do not know how to do it. Imagine your friend makes a fantastic carrot cake and you really want to make one yourself. This desire and awareness can drive you on and give you the momentum and motivation to learn. You will probably make a few mistakes during this stage, but it is all part of the great learning experience. I once sent blank pieces of paper around the world on a fax machine (I was putting them in the wrong way up) and on another occasion, I made a coat and sewed the sleeves in upside down!

In stage three, you have learned what you need to do, but it does not come naturally (yet). You are now in the conscious competence stage. This is when you have passed your driving test, but you still have an L in the rear window of your car. You can drive, but every trip is an odyssey! A lot of language learners get stuck in this phase. Language learners know what to say, understand a lot of what is being said, but find speaking still a struggle. They have to listen extremely hard to follow a conversation. Many people give up in the conscious competence stage because they do not believe they can progress and get where they want to go.

Lastly comes stage four, which is unconscious competence. Your skill is now automatic. Also, now you are in stage four, it can be difficult to explain and teach learners how to acquire your skill because it is now second nature and you must try to put yourself in their shoes.

It’s never too late to gain a new skill or hobby, so, what would you like to learn to do?