This year for Healthy Aging Month, we’ve gone into detail about how nutrition, exercise and social connection all play in healthy aging. The last topic we’d like to touch on is learning. It is a common misconception that college or graduate school is the end of the education cycle, but this is only true in terms of traditional education. Our mind is capable of continuous lifelong learning, and, in fact, it is now being recognized as an essential ingredient for healthy aging.
The Benefits of Continuously Learning
As explained in an BHIA Health article, the human mind is like a plant. If you “water” it through daily mental activity and challenges, it will continue to grow and thrive. Even as the brain gets older, continuous learning will help it produce new cells and create new synapses, or connections, between neurons. Building more synapses, thus a denser web of connections, is associated with maintaining cognitive health as we age. It promotes physical benefits as well, such as reduced stress levels, lower risk of depression and/or anxiety, and the ability to delay or possibly even prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Additional benefits of lifelong learning include:
- Keeping your mind sharp
- Improving your memory
- Increasing self-confidence
- Enhancing your sense of accomplishment
- Improving your social life by helping you meet people who share your interests
- Building on skills you already have
- Giving you a new interest that you can share with family and friends
Ideas for Lifelong Learning
Listed below are ideas to start incorporating into your daily routine that promote lifelong learning:
- Start learning and practicing a new language, both speaking and writing.
- Learn to play an instrument by taking classes or by teaching yourself.
- Memorize your surroundings, including street names and landmarks, in your local area and when you travel. Then, try to navigate based on that instead of following a GPS.
- Play new and challenging board games with family and friends.
- Take in person and online classes to learn new skills.
For more information about continuous learning and for more ideas on how to keep learning, click here!