Is lifelong learning a recipe for aging well? It is according to researchers. Here’s why your education should never stop, even when you’re well past traditional schooling age.
It’s hard to talk about well-being without encountering the ideas of lifelong learning. This is especially true for retirees, who can reap all sorts of benefits by enrolling in a class. Those benefits aren’t just intellectual benefits, either. Lifelong learning can benefit senior health and act as a preventative agent for some mental and physical ailments. Here’s how.
1. Taking Classes is a Good Way to Combat Restlessness
Many of the benefits of lifelong learning for retirees have to do with socialization. As people retire or begin to age, they are more likely to become restless, particularly those who live alone or haven’t replaced work with a hobby. If you have retired from your career and you are not an active part of a community, how do you spend your time? Take a class! This will allow you to meet new people and acquire new skills or knowledge.
You may think you can learn things from the comfort of your own home and your television set or computer. This may be true, the history channel has a wealth of educational programming, but it won't provide the same social opportunities. If you want to fight restlessness, you need to stimulate your brain through continued learning and social interaction.
Why is social interaction important? Restlessness, if left unaddressed, can turn into loneliness.
Loneliness contributes to a number of health problems, including:
There are more health risks associated with loneliness, but this gives you an idea of how loneliness can negatively affect health.
Enrolling in a class helps enrich life on several levels, not the least of which is the social aspect. Whether it’s enrolling in a course at the local community college, gathering for classes near home in a senior living community, or participating in courses online, a class is social and helps seniors form bonds with like-minded individuals.
Social interaction and mental stimulation are great ways to combat restlessness, loneliness, or depression.
2. Always Learning Means Staying Sharp
After retirement, there’s less stimulation to keep us on our toes. Finding new challenges in a class can keep the mind sharp.
You never know, you may set out to sharpen your mind and find your passion along the way! Once your children have left the nest and you have retired from your obligations, it’s time to look inside yourself and find what makes you happy and what gives you purpose. Try new things! Take a dance class, learn to paint, expand your pallet and your recipe list. As you sharpen your skills you will be one step closer on the journey to finding your passion.
3. Classmates Can Become Friends
Another issue some people face after retirement is an ever-narrowing social network. Going back to school, whether it’s for accounting or basket weaving, can open up new channels of socialization as we meet people both inside and outside the classroom.
4. Learning Makes the World More Interesting
Maybe Gandhi said it best:
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Learning about the topics you love, that spark your interest, can add a new dimension to life. Everyone benefits from broadening their horizons, even seniors who’ve already packed a lot of experience under their belts.
A great way to continue learning and challenging yourself is to engage with your grandchildren or younger members of the community. As the old adage goes, everyone knows something you don’t – exchange experience and knowledge with younger generations.
5. Learning is Fulfilling
Many retirees and older Americans find a surprising challenge in their new lifestyle: how to stay busy with all that free time. Many miss a daily routine or a set schedule. A class can bring regularity to the week’s schedule that many crave, and fills the time in a way that makes one proud. Wouldn’t you rather end the day knowing you enriched and challenged your mind?
Have you ever considered learning a new language? This could provide new and exciting opportunities! You can make new friends, try a new restaurant that offers exotic cuisine, or even travel with your new ability to communicate and translate.
6. Continuing Education May Help Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
A little earlier we mentioned that taking a class keeps the mind sharp, but did you know it can help prevent or delay disease? Continued learning has been shown to help stave off the kind of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study released in 2012. Again, it seems that daily challenge is good for the brain, just as daily exercise is good for the body.
Want more than just mental improvement? Physical exercise has also been shown to improve brain function and increase lifespan. Click here to continue your path to learning with 7 must-do exercises for seniors.
These are just a few reasons lifelong learning benefits senior health and keeps us younger. There are plenty of classes out there, so take your pick. If it’s not for you, try another until you find one you like. You’ll be improving your mental health and feeling younger while having a wonderful time.
At Acts Retirement-Life Communities, residents are encouraged to continue learning and use their skills to better their community. Since Acts offer’s maintenance-free, resort style living, residents are free to pursue their passions, pastimes, hobbies, and enjoy the multiple social opportunities offed.