Alumni Blogs

Studying later in life boosts your brain and keeps you young, says this SACAP graduate

Aug 20, 2020 | By Venessa Dace
Studying later in life boosts your brain and keeps you young, says this SACAP graduate

You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, right? Uh-uh, not true! The antediluvian adage, which dates back to 1523, appears to be unfounded – particularly in these terrifically technological times.

Unquestionably puppies are keenly curious, however, dogs never stop learning. In fact, its widely purported among canine compliance groups that adult dogs are often easier to train than their younger counterparts especially because they’re not as active, aren’t easily distracted and can focus for longer periods of time.

Wondering what this pooch phenomenon has to do with people? A fair bit, in fact. Apparently with age our potential for learning grows, too. According to extensive neuroscience research, the human brain keeps on developing in adults, as long as the adult continues learning.

Love to learn

There are many benefits to studying later in life and fortunately SACAP graduate Mark Pretorius (63) has had first-hand experience of some of them. He attributes his youthful demeanour and enthusiastic outlook to his heartfelt – and lifelong – love of learning. “While many people my age are on the verge of retiring, I just cannot get enough of studying and seeking new and fresh information,” he says.

Mark lives with his wife in Abu Dhabi in The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and he’s an accomplished scholar. Besides being an active student and senior lecturer at the South African Theological Seminary (SATS) – where he teaches online – he also presents academic papers at national and international conferences and publishes books.

Earlier this year Mark completed his Bachelor of Social Science Honours in Psychology (BSocSciHons) through SACAP’s Online Campus. We asked him to share his thoughts on his online learning experience and how the content of his course is informing not only his career but also his whole approach to life.

Mind matters

Mark has always had a keen interest in psychology, he says. “The mind and brain are, for me, the most untapped and exciting fields to study. Research is vast and endless, new information is regularly discovered and published articles run into the thousands.”

Fuelled by his longing to learn more, Mark decided to pursue his academic journey in psychology after he completed his Ph.D. in systematic theology. “I discovered that my understanding of psychology fitted in well with my study and writings in theology,” he explains.

With four theology degrees under his belt Mark elected to study online for his bachelor’s in psychology through UNISA, and then signed up to complete his honours through SACAP’s Online Campus. “In order to give a more informed view of how psychology intersects with theology in my publications I wanted to further my understanding of psychology,” he says.

Course criteria

“Being a seasoned academic, I had four specific criteria when looking for a place to study,” Mark recalls. “It must be an institution registered with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the programme must be online, the course material must be of a high quality and, most importantly, the lecturing staff must be well qualified.”

Happily, says Mark, SACAP met all these prerequisites with aplomb. “Right from the start of my application I found SACAP’s service to be excellent. It was quick, friendly and easy.”

Mark rates SACAP’s course material highly, too. “The lecturers are competent, professional and easy to get along with. I never once felt alone or overwhelmed. And, while the readings are intensive, I found the subject matter invigorating.”

In terms of face-to-face versus virtual learning, Mark says he’s a devotee of the latter. “Because I live in the UAE and work fulltime I chose to study online. Also, I teach online and know from experience that it’s equal, if not better, to studying on campus. In fact, the mini-thesis I submitted for my honours at SACAP was about the psychology of online learning and its benefits.”

Supportive synergy

The knowledge and skills Mark has gleaned from his SACAP degree is helping him fulfil his current purpose, “which deals specifically with how psychology can help in better understanding certain ideas in theology,” he says. “Consequently, I’ve added psychology to one of our courses at SATS, which students have been enjoying.”

On a broader level Mark is relishing the spoils his affection for mental aerobics has ushered in. “Psychology is a truly wonderful discipline!” he exclaims. “It has shown me that if you think you’re old, you probably are, regardless of your age. Conversely, if people consider you old in age, yet you think you’re young, you are! You can trick your brain, and it’s great. I do it all the time and my wife loves it. I can do the Macarena with a Michael Flatly twist – true story!”

Geared to grow

Seemingly, Mark’s thirst for knowledge is far from satiated. Next year he’s planning to study for his masters in positive psychology. “I believe it will give me tools to further enhance my writing and teaching, as well as benefit my counselling ministry to people in my local church who have lost hope,” he says. “Positive psychology shows how, amidst the many hardships and obstacles we face, we have been created to flourish.”

Do you have a lust for learning? It’s worth remembering that no matter how far along we are in our careers we’re still living, growing organisms. Our capacity to keep developing our consciousness and skill set expands exponentially when we flex our grey matter. Essentially, cerebral workouts keep you young – it’s a scientific fact!

SACAP’s Online Campus offers a range of dynamic courses that suit adults of all ages and from all walks of life. From engaging content and interactive online learning to expert educators and the advantage of studying at your own pace, SACAP’s online courses encourage high levels of intellectual autonomy so you can grow and extend yourself beyond your wildest expectations. The next Online Campus intake is in September, SACAP’s Term 3, and course registrations are open now. If, like Mark, you want to fulfil your highest potential and continue to contribute, then consider studying online through SACAP. The start of your own unique journey to self-actualisation could be just a few mouse clicks away. Enquire here now.

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