It’s that time of year when the stores are stocked with school supplies and the school buses resume their daily routes. Although we often think of back-to-school season as one for our kids and grandkids, they’re not the only ones who get to keep learning. Seniors can continue their education at any time and in nearly any place—because learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.
You might be thinking that it’s too late for you to learn new things. You’re retired, after all, and your career days have passed, so why keep gaining knowledge now? While the thought of continuing your education as a senior may sound impractical, it actually has a variety of benefits. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
It doesn’t matter if you’re five or 85—when you take in new information, your brain benefits. Mentally challenging activities—like reading the newspaper, investing in a new hobby or playing chess with your grandchild—act as exercise for your brain. Practicing these activities can improve your cognitive function and positively impact your ability to remember things. Multiple studies have shown that seniors who engage in continued learning have a lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Older adults who actively educate themselves also tend to experience better overall mental and emotional health, which may be because researching new information can help seniors combat boredom and feel more fulfilled in their everyday lives.
We often associate education with reading a classic novel, studying a textbook or solving a complicated math equation—but that type of learning doesn’t appeal to everyone. Luckily, you don’t have to sit at a desk and read for hours to take in new information. Instead, try incorporating physical activity into your education. For example, you might take up yoga and spend time practicing some of the different poses involved in the exercise, or you could go on a nature walk and identify various types of trees. By staying active while you engage your mind, you’ll improve both your mental and physical health.
If you’re more of a textbook student, don’t worry—you can still reap the physical benefits of education. Reading has been proven to significantly lower stress and consequently reduce your chance of suffering from a heart attack or other stress-related medical problems.
Learning is even more enjoyable when you do it with friends. Taking a class or joining a club is a great way to meet new people with similar interests and prevent feelings of isolation. Plus, you may even be able to share your own knowledge and teach others something new. Continuing to educate yourself can also help you better relate to your family and friends. By consistently reading the newspaper and staying in the loop about current events and culture, you may be able to better relate to your children and grandchildren.
How can I get started with lifelong learning?
Lifelong learning comes in all shapes and sizes. You might go the traditional route and sign up for a class at your local community college, or you may decide to try a new hobby and join a club to help you with the basics. The library is also a great resource, as they often hold programs for adults and seniors—and, of course, they have shelves and shelves of reading material. Learning can be as simple as reading a mystery novel, keeping up with the latest news headlines or doing a crossword puzzle. As long as you’re involving your mind, there’s no wrong answer, so try new things until you find what works best for you!