For many seniors, retirement is everything but a time to slow down. They want to continue growing, doing and learning. Actually, retirement is the perfect time for personal development. With the vast number of methods available for lifelong learning today — from online learning to continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) with abundant educational opportunities — it’s never been easier to learn something new. And thousands of hours of research suggest that continuous learning just might make your life in retirement better than you imagined.
The Benefits of Lifelong Learning
There are few more beneficial ways to engage your brain than through learning new things. Continuous learning improves brain health for seniors, and also offers a number of secondary physical and mental health benefits.
Physical Health Benefits
Just like exercising a muscle builds stronger muscle fibers, exercising the brain builds stronger connections that improve cognitive function. A study by the University of Dallas found that seniors who engaged in lifelong learning, such as taking up a challenging new hobby, saw a significant increase in lasting memory skills. The study suggested that even 45 minutes of intellectual engagement three days a week increased working memory, planning and multitasking skills. Another study conducted at Case Western Reserve University concluded that lifelong learning can help prevent the onset and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. In both studies, and many others in the neurological research community, senior lifelong learners who participated in structured intellectual stimulation over time have an overall better quality of life than those who live a mentally sedentary lifestyle. And the benefits of lifelong learning extend beyond brain health.
Intellectual stimulation can actually reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system, and decrease the risk of stroke or heart attack. But wait … there’s more. A study by researchers at Harvard and Princeton was concluded that more education is linked to longer life expectancy. The study found that one additional year of education increases lifespans by 0.18 years. The same study also found significantly lower instances of acute and chronic diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, emphysema, diabetes, asthma and others.
Mental Health Benefits
Lifelong learning can strengthen your brain and contribute to a healthier overall lifestyle, but the more substantial – and even more noticeable – benefits have to do with one’s mental state and emotional well-being. One study published in The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry found active learning can help seniors avoid instances of depression and anxiety and that learning can give seniors a renewed sense of purpose. Over a three-year period, seniors in the study experienced greater feelings of personal development and fewer feelings of poor self-image. Additionally, seniors who participated in enhanced learning environments experienced an increase in social participation, which is thought to heavily contribute to positive emotions and generally higher confidence.
The Many Forms of Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning is for everyone, regardless of formal education. The best method is subjective to each individual – whatever sparks your personal interest. One of the greatest advantages of living in a senior living community like The Marshes is that there are plenty of options to stimulate your mind and find new interests. But the beautiful thing about lifelong learning is that there are practically endless ways to participate. These are just a few options to get you started on your intellectual journey:
The Hobbyist Route
Finding a hobby you love is a surefire way to add more purpose to your life. From knitting to historical research to woodworking, the sheer number of hobbies for seniors today is unending. Retirement is the perfect time to get back to a long-lost passion project or find something new and exciting to stimulate your brain. Plus, there are no wrong answers. Anything that captivates your interest and offers personal development fits the bill for lifelong learning.
There’s never been a better time to be a lifelong learner, thanks to the digital age in which we live. Online learning has changed the face of education for students young and old. Many colleges and universities offer a wide variety of structured programs and individual courses alike to anyone with internet access. Some even offer free online courses that require no formal education or prerequisites, only an ambition to learn.
Learning a language is arguably the most effective method of keeping your mind sharp. A vast array of research has been done on the effect of learning a foreign language for seniors, almost all concluding in astoundingly positive results. In fact, many experts now believe it’s the most beneficial activities for seniors to prevent the onset of dementia. Furthermore, the long-held myth that it’s far more difficult to learn a language later in life has been debunked. Research indicates that learning a language is no more difficult for seniors than it is for children.
We Love to Learn
For seniors looking to expand their horizons and stay mentally fit in retirement, The Marshes of Skidaway Island is the perfect place to call home. A wide variety of engaging activities, services, and amenities ensure that residents here can continue their journey of personal growth in any way they desire. If you’d like to learn more about active lifestyles here, don’t hesitate to contact us any time.