Lifelong Learning for Long Life: A Seniors’ Guide
Move it Grandma! Wake up Grandpa! Modern science is discovering things people have known for years: keeping busy and staying active keeps your whole body healthy (especially your noggin). That’s why onlinecollegecourses.com has put together this quick list of all the ways to keep your noodle ticking and stay healthy well into your golden years.
Science Proved it: Use It or Lose It!
All the way up to the World Health Organization, researchers have shown staying mentally active keeps your mind in great shape:
- A review of scientific literature by the Cochrane Library in the United Kingdom demonstrated that games and other mentally challenging tasks can help people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
- A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that seniors aged 75 or older who read, play games, dance, or play musical instruments at least twice a week were significantly less likely to develop dementia.
- And the more activity, the better: the same study revealed that those who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a much lower risk of dementia – by 47% – than those who did just one puzzle a week.
In addition to helping prevent and treat cognitive diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, mental stimulation can reduce depression and raise self-esteem. A recent article from WebMD notes that staying happy and confident is incredibly important for healthy living – but unfortunately, older people suffer from sadness and anxiety just like young people. Don’t despair “” get active:
- A recent study published in GeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry looked at a group of older adults who took classes at a university in Madrid, Spain between 2007 and 2011. The researchers found the classes reduced the occurrence of depression in the older adults compared with the control group (who didn’t take classes).
- Numerous studies show people who get up in the morning and exercise face less depression. Consider learning new hobbies with a little physical activity, such as gardening, swimming, or even just walking; even a good game of shuffleboard can help! One study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found ballroom dancing to have particular promise for reducing depression and increasing mental acuity.
So Let’s Get Started
It doesn’t have to be boring! Keeping mentally active is about more than just filling your brain with new information. It’s about meeting new people and building friendships. It’s about getting fascinated and motivated. It’s about getting out of the house and getting some exercise. All of these things have been shown to be critical for mental and physical health later in life.
High school is in your distant past, so the days of boring, rote learning are behind you. Whatever interests you – whether it’s model trains, sports, dance, cards, clothes, cars, anything – there are people out there who share your interests and hundreds of opportunities to learn more. Let’s look at a few of them:
Many local colleges and universities have lifelong learning institutes offering affordable and stress-free classes to older adults. For example, the University of Washington’s Osher Institute offers a variety of classes each semester to adults over 50 for just $35 a year! Similar programs can be found all across the country. A simple Internet search for “lifelong learning” will yield names of some schools in your area.
Take a visit down to your public library to see what classes and events are available. Many offer classes of their own or have postings for activities in your local community. For example, the New York Public Library offers free and useful courses just about every day, may exclusively for seniors.
Places of Worship
Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious establishments often offer adult education or opportunities for charity work. If you are a person of faith, visit your local place of worship to see how you can get involved.
Last, but certainly not least, the Internet offers thousands of opportunities for lifelong learning in a wide range of subjects. Check out Coursera, edX, and Udemy to follow real college courses from the best universities in the world. Dive into your passion for history, poetry, philosophy, or cooking. It’s all available.
But the Internet is not just about sitting in front of a computer screen. Meetup.com features thousands of real-life clubs where members meet to share interests and hobbies. There are meetups for book clubs, writing, hiking, board games, and dining, just to name a few.
VolunteerMatch.org posts thousands of volunteer opportunites across the country. Help at a food bank one day, and become an English tutor for immigrants the next “” there are interesting activities for all sorts of different causes. And of course, it’s a great way to get out, learn new things, and make new friends.
It’s well worth your time to stay active and learn new things. Sure, daily activities aren’t as easy as plopping down in front of the tube – which is tempting for people of all ages – but fun, fulfilling experiences will result in a happier, healthier, and sharper life, no matter your age. So what are you waiting for?