Joseph Stiglitz is a Columbia University professor of economics with many exciting progressive ideas. One of his key ideas is that for a society to prosper it needs to be a learning society. He points out the importance of on-the-job learning in creating a learning organization. He laments the great loss of knowledge that happens during recessions when businesses disappear.

I think the same can be said of retirement. When workers and employers who have accumulated knowledge throughout their work lives retire, their organization suffers a great loss. The organization may benefit by making opportunities for new people with new ideas but the deep understandings of the retired workers are gone forever.

What happens to to all that hard-earned learning? We take it with us into the brave new world of retirement. Is it still useful? Probably some of it is - like knowing how to work with fellow workers, how to pay attention to outcomes, how to be diligent and resourceful. We can learn all these things in even in the most toxic of work environments.

Probably the most useful thing a retired person can take from their learning at work is knowing how to learn.

I completed my PhD in a continental philosophy (postmodern) interpretation of public libraries at JCU, Townsville, Australia in 2004 - only 3 years before I retired. This was a truly remarkable experience because my academic learning allowed me to reflect on my work-related learning in a new and complex way. This reflective process has provided a model for trying to understand my learning after retirement. A key concept was the contextual nature of knowledge. Knowledge gives us power but those in power decide what is knowledge.

Having time to learn without worrying about making a living sounds like a lot of fun. But it is also challenging. To learn new things, we have to give up long-held views and get over long-standing prejudices that we probably thought were evidence of being a respectable person. I'm sure this is why some right-wing Christians cannot accept evolution or climate change.

To learn new things we have to allow ourselves to experience, what one colleague calls, "periods of epistemic uncertainty." These are times when we've abandoned an old idea but have not yet found another idea to replace it. Or when we're trying to learn something new and it just isn't making any sense yet. A good example is taking a Great Course on Gravity . You just barely get the hang of Newtonian gravity when your instructor tells you Newton was mostly wrong and you now need to understand Einstein's completely different view.

To be lifelong learners we have to admit to ourselves that we don't know everything - even in areas where we used to think we were experts. In other words, being a lifelong learner includes never being an expert. That is the joy and despair of retirement learning - no-one expects us to be experts anymore! But the "aha moments" of insight are still real!


Penny about 3 years old (1945).

Just like when we were kids, we have to keep learning so we can continually reinvent ourselves and make sense of our changing lives in our changing world.

At least in the first years of retirement, travel can be a very significant part of learning. We can learn a lot from watching programs and dvds on other places in the world - but even for simple tourists, there is something amazing about actually being in a different place. Preparing for a trip by studying a bit about the language, the geogrphay and history makes the learning experience much more robust.

The buttons on the left side take you to some things we are learning or want to share. The order is alphabetical. The buttons across the top take you to various ways we travel and stuff about learning to paint.

Check our Learning Blog where I hope to explore things we are learning, how we are learning, and even the occasional "aha" moment.

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