When 65-year-old Richard Lane saw his mother losing all her memories due to Alzheimer’s, he realised that only lifelong learning could save him from a similar fate. Now Richard is 83 years old, a professional accountant with an MBA and a PhD under his belt, but also an accomplished artist and a radio announcer in his own right.
“My mother was somebody who wanted to achieve,” Dr Richard Lane says. When his father left the family after World War II, leaving Richard, his brother, sister, and his mother to fend for themselves, he remembered her first scrubbing floors, then becoming a dressmaker, a bookkeeper and finally, an artist. “While she was doing some secretarial or bookkeeping work, she was also spending time at the National Art School in Sydney, learning to make pottery. She was definitely an achiever,” Richard says.
However, when Richard was 65, Alzheimer’s caused his mother to no longer recognise him. “That was probably the biggest shock I've ever had in my life, that my mother didn't recognize me,” Richard says. At the time, Richard was a successful accountant with decades of experience, an accomplished artist specialising in watercolours and pottery and a longstanding local radio announcer. However, his mother’s decline was a wakeup call for Richard.
Going back to uni in his 60s
Richard decided to postpone retirement and take his fate in his own hand. He chose to do an Master of Business Administration (MBA) at JCU, to round off his accounting skills. “So, I went back to JCU and said, 'look, I'm 65, am I too old to do an MBA?' and they said, 'No. It'll take you three or four years.’ But I dug into it, and I finished it in 16 or 18 months.”
Even though Richard was the most mature student in his class, there were other mature MBA students as well. “There was only one student that was straight out of a bachelor’s degree, he was about 22 or 23,” he says. “But there were also a lot of students in their 40s and 50s that had come back to uni, just like me.”