“When I started to skate aged 69, I think my friends and family were as surprised as I was that I could. I only heard encouraging things from them, along with amazed laughter: those who felt otherwise didn’t say anything.” – Edwina (now 74)
This kind of reaction is not surprising given the daredevil nature of strapping wheels to your feet. The common belief that you “learn from falling over” puts off many people (of any age) who have an inkling they might want to try skating. And this leaves just the truly brave ones who ignore the doubts that ‘50/60/70 year olds shouldn’t start skating’ and do it anyway. Hopefully with some instruction.
Each older skater I’ve skated with has taught me new things about how to serve this group of people better. It is always a pleasure. But the most amazing thing to me is always how one older skater can be the catalyst for so many others skating dreams. After a private lesson with a beginner skater who is in their 60s, I find it astonishing that this generates several conversations with older passers by and usually several follow-up calls.
It seems so many older people are put off by the risks but also inspired and motivated when they see an older skater learning well, not falling over and obviously in control of what they are doing. Having lessons of some kind (in person or professional tuition online) is highly recommended for ALL new skaters whatever your age, but especially if you are older.
After 21 years teaching skating I’ve become somewhat of a specialist in teaching older beginners who started over the age of 50. I’d like to share my top 5 reasons why I think older learners have some advantages over their younger counterparts.
1. Older skaters are not in a hurry (to learn or skate fast).
Older skaters tend to have more time and tend to practice more regularly than younger skaters, often due to less pressures of work and children. They are NOT in a hurry to become super proficient super quickly.
They are more willing to go through a process, and most do not have velocity as their main objective. This creates deeper learning as adding speed too early to any manouver or drill usually lowers the skater’s capacity to do it accurately (whatever their age or ability level).
This natural wariness of speed in older skaters is beneficial in the learning phase of any new skill, but many younger learners (especially men) tend to add more velocity than is needed (often unconsciously), which then hinders their progress.
2. Older skaters have more patience.
I’ve noticed older skaters have more patience with themselves and get frustrated less often than younger learners. They can practice one movement for longer before they get bored or start judging/assessing the drill for its’ relevance. I’ve never had a discussion in a private lesson with an older skater along the lines of “why are we doing this drill, it doesn’t seem to be doing anything”. Older skaters seem content to do what is asked, as if they trust or can feel the benefit that’s forming through their patient practice. They do not seek to cut corners as some younger learners sometimes do, chasing the end goal too quickly and dragging themselves through any number of difficult emotions from falls, injury, frustration, impatience and giving up.
I have always pondered why so many people give up skating after just a few months or a year or several years? I think it is a consequence of this mix of plateauing in skill development, frustration, feeling stuck & bored or having a scary fall or injury.
3. Older skaters have less ego driving them.
No one wants to fall over while skating, but this feeling is even stronger with older skaters. They really don’t want to fall so they’re willing to listen and follow the instructions AND they often focus better than younger people. Older people need as much repetition in their learning process as younger people, but I’ve noticed they stick with it and have less ego pushing them to “get there”.
Our egos, if left to dominate can scupper the entire process of learning to skate, by expecting perfection too quickly, and not focussing adequately to achieve exactly what’s needed. When a skater is frustrated or annoyed with themselves for not being able to do something on skates, it’s their ego that’s beating them up at that moment. My job then becomes one of explaining to them that what they are trying to do is harder than it looks and no one does it perfectly first time and let’s try it again a little slower….
4. Older skaters get more pleasure from small improvements in their skating.
Older skaters seem to experience more pleasure from small improvements or more pleasure from simple skills, like just skating along. I see them getting into the zone of being at one with themselves and their wheels, feeling that flow and freedom, wind in their hair and often a smile of excitement.
Is it that their brains have been more accustomed to not having the instant gratification that our new tech-filled modern world floods us with? I think there may be a connection. Or are they just wiser or more in touch with their emotions or bodies? Whatever the reason, they tend to get great pleasure while on the journey of learning to skate better, instead of being fixated on the destination.
I’ll end by sharing some skate stories from some of my older learners.