There’s a common misconception that retirement is a time to sit on the sidelines and watch as life passes by. You may have bought into this idea yourself until you retired and decided there’s no way you’re letting life pass you by. Being a lifelong learner is one powerful method for staying mentally sharp and meaningfully engaged with life. Here’s how lifelong learning for seniors helps keeps you in the game:
Supports Cognitive Health
While certain cognitive abilities, such as vocabulary, reading and verbal reasoning, can improve as we get older, age-related changes in the brain may diminish other functions, leading to slower thinking and decreased attention span. Fortunately, lifelong learning can help protect brain function. According to the Global Council on Brain HealthSM, cognitively stimulating activities — defined as mentally engaging activities that challenge a person’s ability to think — can help you maintain thinking skills and attention levels as you get older. It can also enhance your cognitive reserve, which may reduce the severity of cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or traumatic brain injury.
One of the gifts of retirement is that you’re now free to pursue the pastimes and learn the skills that interest you. You set the agenda, instead of a teacher or boss. Studies show that engaging in intellectual pursuits that match your interests, strengths, and needs leads to a variety of positive outcomes, including increased well-being, self-esteem, sense of purpose, hope, and the capacity to cope with health setbacks.
Fosters Social Connection
While there are many ways to learn on your own — reading a book or following an online tutorial, for example — choosing to learn in the company of others has important benefits. The connections you form as you conjugate verbs in a foreign language or practice the mountain pose in yoga class can protect against social isolation and the negative consequences of loneliness, which may include an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Promotes a Sense of Purpose
Lifelong learning for seniors, whether that means learning pickleball, studying tai chi,or taking classes at the local university, is not only mentally engaging, but can provide a valuable feeling of purpose, which may otherwise diminish after retirement. Greater purpose is associated with numerous benefits, from better mobility and increased longevity to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
Living and Learning at Trillium Woods
If you’re a lifelong learner, you’ll find plenty to pique your interest at Trillium Woods. Here you can meet friends in the library to discuss a favorite read, develop your pickleball game, hone your competitive edge through Wii® tournaments, or build skills through specialty classes in tai chi, yoga or dance. If your curiosity takes you down more intellectual paths, sign up for discounted classes through the University of Minnesota’s Senior Citizen Education Program or join a community of lifelong learners at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. For more about living and learning at Trillium Woods, reach out to us to schedule a tour.