Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

I’ve recently started teaching a rather interesting man. He’s working in Berlin as a security guard at the moment, where, I gather he’s been living all his life. But, he has a dream, and that is to move to Norway and live and work there. In a bid to make this a reality, he’s now studying English and Norwegian and doing a computer course. Maybe there’s nothing so remarkable about that – until you learn that he’s 75 years old.

Norway, captured by the wonderful Cindi Keller
Norway, captured by the wonderful Cindi Keller

When I got an email from one of the schools that I work at telling me his story and asking me if I would take him on, my initial reaction was “Wow! 75 years old and about to embark on an amazing adventure in a new country!” I also couldn’t help comparing this to what I’d seen of people of roughly the same age in Latvia. The average life expectancy for a man there is only 68.9, so if they’re not dead already, they’re probably fast approaching the exit by 75.

Fabulous treatment of old people in Latvia
Fabulous treatment of old people in Latvia

Naturally, I just had to meet this guy, so we started doing lessons around a month ago. He told me that he’s going to Norway in August, “with his cat and car”. It sounds like he’s very much set on the idea.

I must admit, after meeting him, my initial reaction of admiration quickly turned to incredulity. I mean, I admired his gumption, but it was hard enough for me moving to a new country at the age of 36 – this guy was almost 40 years older than me. His English and Norwegian are both at absolute beginner level, and I would imagine his knowledge of computers to be around the same.

Other problems also quickly became apparent.

Me: OK, listen to the CD and write down the names of the people. 

CD:

“Hello, nice to meet you. What’s your name?”

“My name is Hayley.”

Me: (pausing the CD) What’s her name?

Dolf: Carlos? 

Me: Erm, let’s try that again. 

It turns out that his hearing isn’t the best, so I had to keep moving the CD player closer and closer to him until it was basically sitting in his lap. It didn’t help much.

Me: Hello Dolf, how are you?

Dolf: Nice.

Me: No, not “nice”, “fine”.

Me: Hello Dolf, how are you? 

Dolf: Nice. 

Me: (mini-sigh) Nice to meet you. 

Dolf: What?

Me: Nice to meet you. 

Dolf: I’m nice. 

Me: No, no, it’s “Nice to meet you, too”.

Dolf: What? 

Me: (turning around to write it on the board)

Dolf: Snore. 

Yep, he has actually nodded off a couple of times in class. But I like to think that this is not because I’m insanely boring. No, like I said, he’s still working as a security guard so, some mornings, he’s been awake since 3am, worked 5 or 6 hours and then come to our English lesson at 10.30. (Germans, eh?) I’d probably doze off too. In fact, I’m a little tempted to just call it nap time and join in the snoozing, but that would probably be bad teaching form. Instead, I give him around 30 seconds and then start talking loudly pretending not to notice when he re-enters the land of the living.

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t to make fun of an old man. God knows, I have the ultimate respect for any adult attempting to learn a new language, let alone two. I also admire his get-up-and-go attitude but I have to wonder how realistic his plan is. At the risk of sounding defeatist, or worse, less energetic than a 75-year-old, moving countries is hard. This move to Berlin has probably been one of the most trying experiences of my life and I only have to learn one language. I also don’t have a cat to take care of; it would be one sorry cat if I did.

But maybe I’m just in a tired, old place right now so instead I’ll open it up to my lovely readers – what do you think of Dolf’s plans?

Happy older Germans on the move
Happy older Germans on the move

 

For more beautiful photos of Norway, you can visit Cindi’s site by clicking here.

 

Advertisements

148 thoughts on “Can you teach an old dog new tricks?”

  1. It just goes to show you’re never too old to try something new. I think it’s great to see Dolf grabbing the bull by the horns and going for it and at least he’s come to you to learn English before he goes. Good luck to him! You’ll have to keep us posted on how he gets on!x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha, so funny to read that conversation! I cannot believe his plans about moving to a new country at that age. Though I understand the urge to go to Norway 😉 But good luck I would say!
    As some say here, you must be really patient. I cannot believe he fell a sleep. I guess he do his a very good his job as a security guard very well…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my, he is still a security guard at 75 years old? Wow!
    I really admiring him for trying to pursue his dream, but I am not sure if he will like to do that… as you said, moving to a new country is very tiring. It requires so much from us, not only the language skills, but psychologically is very tiring too. I just still wonder why he wants to do it… maybe he has a lost love in Norway? ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Go Dolf! I hope I have that sense of adventure when I’m 75. I’m still recovering from my move to NYC years ago. That first year was like being on a foreign planet. There are days when it is still so difficult. But let’s look on the bright side for Dolf.

    You’ll have to find out more information for us next time you see him. Why Norway? Does he have people (or cats) there? Does he have a place to stay?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Today he mainly wanted to talk about his balcony and his cat 😉 He had an hour and a half of Norwegian directly before my lesson so he was speaking Neutsch mainly 😉

      Like

  5. Oh WOW. I can’t imagine just uprooting and moving to a new country — just the cat and car — at 75! It was difficult enough at 48. 🙂

    But I have to agree with his *choice* of new country!

    Your lessons with him sound fun. At least, one-on-one, you can tailor to his, um, attention level.

    And yes, maybe sneak in a 30-second nap too?

    (Thanks for the shout-out!)

    Like

    1. No problem! I did send you a message on FB to ask but I think it probably went into your other folder! Hopefully you get a few extra clicks out of it – your photos are amazing 🙂 Thanks again!

      Like

  6. Maybe the cat has family in Norway.
    I understand your concerns about the dear man (and I do too) but if his will is strong enough, he might be able to pull it off. Have you talked to him about his hearing? Maybe (but not likely) no one has told him that he needs hearing aids. And you’re probably right that he’s tired, in need of sleep by the time he gets to your class. Still, I’m impressed that he even has these goals. Maybe it’s the journey itself that he’s really after. The destination not so important. I hope you both persevere so you can find out what is driving his dream (hopefully, not dementia).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that would be a bit of a disaster! I haven’t broached the issue of his hearing as he can’t understand enough English and my German isn’t nearly good enough for that sort of discussion! He must have some people in his life, surely! Seeing him again tomorrow 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t imagine putting myself under all that pressure at that age. Whatever about moving to a new country, it would at least have to be one where I could already speak the language. You’d have to really want it to go to all that trouble. But I guess it keeps him active which in turn keeps him alive!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I hope he does make it. Everybody deserves to follow their dreams. I am regularly surprised by old people in Germany. I teach a lady here computer and the internet. She’ll turn 75 as well next week. She can now use her laptop, go online and uses Facebook, Skype and emails people too. What I get out of the arrangement is German language practice because she doesn’t even speak one word of German.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s true. She randomly went and bought a laptop at Aldi one day because it was on sale. At that time, I used to live in the flat above her so she came and asked me if I would teach her the computer because she had seen on TV that Indian people are really good with them 😛

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Germans are weird Ive said that like a billion times. So Im not suprized he goes there, Ive met quite a few German pensioners in Thailand in their 60s. The question is why he would go there, that is smth I dont quite understand. What exactly will he find in Norway? Beautiful scenery? They have in Germany as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m impressed that he’s still working as a security guard at his age!

    Hmm, if he was the kind of person who had travelled all over and spoke a few languages already, I’d say good on him. But moving to a new country for the first time at his age? I’m not sure he realises what he’s getting himself into. Good luck to him though!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m probably making a small comment about the guy going to Norway later (will they even let him immigrate? I doubt that he is prime material for their job market – neither age, nor education-wise (or do they require a uni diploma to be a security guard?)), but that picture about how terrible seniors have it here is probably a bit disingenuous.

    While I’m not denying your general point, the lady on the picture is a street cleaner gathering leaves (which is a pretty stupid practice, btw). She is dressed a bit odd for the area –cleaners near the Riga Canal are usually uniformed– but otherwise I don’t see how it illustrates the plight of the elderly here.

    And it’s not like you’d have to go far from there to see the typical clientele at the Central Market or the beggars in and around the train/bus station.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think I’ve seen that post, but my point still stands: the picture doesn’t show what it’s supposed to show. 🙂

        Like

          1. Yes, except her being old is coincidental here. People don´t become street cleaners because they have better options here (or probably anywhere), regardless of age.

            Like

                1. I’m sure there are. There’s just something a bit more tragic about seeing people in their 70s and 80s doing this kind of work. It’s not like they’ve had the easiest of lives, and this is what awaits them.

                  Liked by 1 person

  12. Activity is what keeps people alive to an old age.

    And don’t be so sure you would never attempt something like this 40 years from now. By then, your options in life will boil down to trying something new or rotting in front of the TV… unless they figure out a way to postpone menopause for 40 years or so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not too bothered about menopause 😉
      Rotting away in front of the TV doesn’t sound very appealing either! I can see myself travelling and trying new things, but starting again from scratch in a new country? I don’t know how many of those I have left in me!

      Like

  13. Uggggg…it all depends on the person. My father is 75 and still gets up at 4AM and goes to work. The same job he has had for 50 years. My mother is 70 and travels all over. I was kind of thinking this guy might be the same…..but if he is as you described…..he might have a tough time of it. I guess he can come back as lady of the cakes mentioned. And Nancy was right…you ARE patient…probably more patient than you realize. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nah, shucks 😉
      Your folks sound brilliant! I guess 70 isn’t that old any more, but like you said, it depends on what shape you’re in! Do they have a retirement age in Texas or can you just keep working for as long as you like?

      Like

  14. Linda, there are 2 things I don’t understand and admire (in a way) about you: how long your hatred for Latvia can last and why did you stay in this terrible, ugly, unfriendly etc. country (where you managed to notice only iceberg’s visible part) for so long?

    Like

      1. You should try and compare a glamorous Hollywood star and a guy/girl from a slum town.
        Pensions for many old people here are small, but we are not as rich as Germany or Ireland, or whatever. You cannot expect a poor country grant abundant benefits. We are still struggling to make ends meet on every level – be it the pension system or salaries for teachers and other public servants.
        My dad passed in his mid-seventies from a long-term illness. No-one’s safe from that. Before that, he spent his retirement days working in the garden. My mum is over 70 now; she reads books, does gardening, goes to a local community centre and meets other old ladies where they all together attend English, computer, knitting and needlework classes. They don’t have to pay for this – it’s a local municipality initiative. Time from time they travel somewhere or go to one or other bigger city to watch a play at a theatre. So, how is that a bad treatment?
        Yes, their health is not top-notch and, most probably, their life will be shorter than that of German people. But don’t forget that they spent their best years in the USSR – with poor health care system, in bad living conditions (my mum’s health suffered partially due to lack of proper food), often hard manual labour (my aunt ruined her health in kolkhoz), some even spent their childhood and youth in Siberia.

        Like

      2. you didn’t deny having hatred for latvia! Now I am a bit disappointed. I always thought that you liked it a bit. in some strangely masochistic way! 😀 As a latvian i fully support every word that you write! Not everyone is half blind selfish bag of grumpiness in latvia. Sending love from Berlin to you.(moved here 2 years earlier than you )

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I can not say that the social welfare system in Latvia is perfect but where it is? My parents live in countryside (76 and 78) and are perfectly able to sustain themselves. They don’t complain that they are not treated well and I could easily imagine my dad in your Dolf’s role. My mom wouldn’t go for that just because she’s never really liked travelling and stuff. And there are thousands more living a similar life.
        You could possibly try to be more selective when using Latvia as a synonym for all evil in the world, couldn’t you?

        Like

    1. I hope not! I’m not sure if he has any family. I know he’s definitely not married but haven’t got to the kids question yet. He’s only ever mentioned the cat!

      Like

  15. We are in the midst of preparations to send my partner’s 86 year old mother to spend a couple months in Dubai then Kenya. She has a club foot with many more mobility related issues but there is no stopping her! Half of what I think keeps folks happy and engaged in their later years is DOING things!

    So kudos to Dolf and hope life in Norway as much as he hopes it will be!

    Personally the long winters would get to me… I can’t handle the wake up in dark and go to sleep in the dark and put on a gazillion layers of clothes just to step out my door routine any more. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, my granny was the same and she lived until her 90s! She always had something going on and lived by herself until the end! Your partner’s mother sounds like a great lady! I’d be nervous about a trip to Dubai and Kenya!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think ‘miaow’ is pretty much universal! Though the sounds animals make in different languages are usually very funny – or the human interpretation of them anyway! Woof woof is how how in Polish 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Dolf sounds great! I can’t say that his dreams seems realistic…or even wise, at his age . . .but having a new challenge and something to work toward may be the thing that keeps him going! I think that’s awesome! (And, as a 40 something year old who constantly gets it wrong in language class, and comes near to nodding off, I’m feeling solidarity with this guy!)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I think it’s a cool plan but his plans might originate from being senile. I think it’s a good plan because the worse that can happen is that he passes away while living his dream. There’s not really much to lose. But ya, I don’t know how well he will do with learning a new language.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Whew, that’ a challenge. I doubt that I would attempt it at 57. I hate moving and the thought of going to a country where i don’t speak the language, don’t have a job, when I can’t hear very well, would drive me to panic attacks (not that I’m prone). That said, everyone has different levels of stress. And age is really just a matter of how you feel. ha! My Mum will be 82 this year and she works out 3 times a week doing aquafitness at the local YWCA. She exercises with a friend who is a bit older at 85. One day recently Mum and her friend were exercising and were done about 11:30 am. Mum asked her friend if she wanted to go grab some lunch and her friend responded that her Mother was making her lunch. When my Mum was taken aback and asked how old her friend’s Mother was, her friend responded that her Mother was 105, still had her own apartment and did her own groceries and cleaning.

    Yep, age is pretty relative so all i can say is that i wish Dolf the very best – may the force be with him.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wow, those ladies have some good genes! That’s amazing! My friend’s dad is in his (late) seventies and is always off on adventures. He recently climbed Everest so I guess you’re right 🙂 He’d broken his leg on a previous adventure so it would have been easy to give up at that point but there was no stopping him either!

      Like

  19. Gotta follow your dreams someday! If it’s to move to Norway, or own a closet full of shoes, or marry a hot, rich man who is the perfect and passionate gentleman, have at!

    Honestly, that guy has more cojones than I do. I dunno that I’d ever be able to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. My 87-year-old neighbor is deaf and it is so difficult having a conversation with him (he can’t read my lips because I “move them funny”); I could never do it in English. But maybe he would learn better by reading and writing? In Norway he’ll have to speak but he could always take a little notebook along… then there’s no worries about mishearing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think that might be his best chance! We’re doing a little bit of everything – his reading is definitely better than his listening or speaking, but I guess most people start off that way! His writing is very ‘Denglish’ 🙂 I wonder how you move your lips funny 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have small panic attacks when I think about moving, and I’ll be surrounded by family that speaks English (Oma and Opa being the exceptions). He’s really going all out. He knows no Norwegian and no English to fall back on. I would be too terrified to do it if I were in is place. I’m cheering for him.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. As you said, I love the ambition, but I think he has much more chance if he puts it back, even by 6 months. Half a year from false beginner – he might scrape into elementary level, but it probably won’t be enough to deal with a job, paperwork, etc.
    Good luck to him (and you!) all the same though!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. hm, somehow I’ve just got a feeling that you’ve adopted a puppy… err, sorry an old gent 😉 That Dolf does seem like a trooper indeed. Not entirely convinced his plans for moving to Norway will work out, but if he does make that move I’m all in for some good old cheering.
    Talking of older people in the Baltics, while the majority is indeed not all that inspiring and kind of sad and all, I’m always positively inspired by my neighbor who’s Dolf’s age yet still does his daily (and I mean daily like all year round) cross country runs to the lake (that’s 2 km to and 2 km back) for his daily round of exercise. Not sure if it’s all this exercise or splash into a cold lake, but he sure could pass for a much younger gent. Well, until you see him drive – THAT is a bit scary.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, I do let out a mini-sigh once in a while 😉 The not understanding is one thing, but the not hearing is a much bigger issue! And you’re probably the first person to ever accuse me of having the patience of an angel 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Let me know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s