As time passes and age takes hold, it’s easy to assume the best route is to keep doing what you’re doing, rather than tackle new challenges. If you’re a child, a teen or in your early 20s, it’s easy to dream about new ambitions: play the guitar, learn to speak Japanese, do a flip off your skateboard. But what if you’re older? It can feel like you’ve missed the boat, especially when you’ve got a family to support and a job to hold down.

But the fact is, learning a new skill is an excellent way to keep mentally alert. According to the Alzheimer's Association, "mentally stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even create new nerve cells." It’s not just about becoming brilliant at something; learning a new skill will make you more fulfilled and make you more mentally - and even physically - active . Convinced? Here are six ideas to get you started... and all will give you a brand spanking new set of skills in the space of a weekend.

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  • Make your own cider and perry

    In case you didn't know, cider has ditched the olde worlde image and is now the tipple of hipsters everywhere. At least that's the theory. Why not spend a day in the heart of cider making country, for a practical hands-on course with the <a href="">Cider Academy</a>? They'll provide you with everything you need to know about making your own perry and cider at home. Crucially, you'll also get to sample some fine ciders and perries too... Scrumptious.

  • Set sail

    Dinghy sailing for beginners Love the idea of sailing into the sunset, but never knew which direction to take?<a href=""> The Royal Yachting Association holds two-day taster courses</a> all over the country, provided there’s a decent amount of water nearby. The aim is to enable total novices to handle a dinghy safely and successfully in light winds under supervision.

  • Survival skills

    And we're not talking Christmas with the in-laws.<a href="">Survival School</a> is dedicated to teaching bushcraft, survival and wilderness living skills, with the focus on learning to live with nature, respect the environment and push back the boundaries of your capabilities. Weekend courses are available in Devon, Staffordshire, Wales and the highlands of Scotland, and there's everything from a weekend course on primitive weaponry, which teaches you how to make the weapons of our ancestors, to a one-dayer that covers fire-lighting and foraging in the wilderness. There's also a weekend survival course for families. This is pureBoys' Own stuff.

  • Bread baking

    Cooking is a really handy skill that everyone can appreciate, and there is nothing better than a loaf of freshly baked homemade bread if you want to impress your family. Richard Bertinet, author of Dough, holds hugely popular <a href="">weekend workshops </a>in Bath, that promise to help you rise to the challenge. You'll be taught how to make and work the dough to create a range of breads from two simple doughs. If bread making is beyond your skill-set, you can sign up to cookery school's "Hapless Husbands and Desperate Housewives" course, which teaches the culinarily challenged to make simple family suppers without resorting to the ready meals

  • Master some handy DIY skills

    From learning to paint the front room to tiling the bathroom and mending that pesky leaky tap, there’s no denying that picking up some new DIY skills is a great way to save to money – and it can be pretty empowering too. <a href="">B&Q runs a comprehensive list of DIY classes</a> at stores across the country. From insulating your loft to getting to grips with power tools, each skills-focused class takes between two and four hours, and prices start at just a tenner.

  • Take it off road

    Much more fun than the gym - if a little muddier - you can learn how to perfect those bunny hops, wheelies and jumps at one of the <a href="">CTC's off-road cycling skills</a> one-day courses and keep fit. Trust us, your kids will think you're a legend.