We live in a fast paced world where everything from technology to standard classroom basics is evolving at a swift rate. Staying current not only helps you in your career, but also improves your overall health and wellness.
It used to be assumed that as we age, our ability to understand new concepts diminished. Some studies even reported that learning ability declined around 1% every year after an individual reached 25. New studies have debunked this. What slows down is the speed of learning, only slightly, not the ability to grasp, learn, and implement new concepts.
Young adults may able to memorize information faster or stay focused longer; however, older adults are better at using information along with life experience to problem solve and brainstorm solutions. Think about it, the typical worker today will have six or more “careers” within their lifetime. Such experience is valuable in analyzing current situations and providing solutions based on life experience.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF LEARNING
Many studies are currently recording and reviewing the direct health benefits of lifelong learning. Early studies are showing adults who engage in formal or informal education reap numerous benefits such as emotional balance, a healthy social life, improved memory function, and increased overall happiness. Adults are often afraid to learn new concepts, new software, or new procedures, but research clearly demonstrates that mental stimulation helps adults maintain cognitive functioning.
We understand that we need to feed our body nutritious food and engage in regular exercise for optimal health and wellness; your brain also needs fuel (from healthy foods and nutrients), rest (from adequate sleep), and cognitive stimulation (learning new subjects, playing games, and group engagement). Imagine such stimuli as the fitness club for your brain.
SO HOW DO I STAY MENTALLY STIMULATED?
Take a class. Choose something you have always been interested in, but never had the time to pursue. This may be a collegiate subject such as public speaking, or a fine arts subject such painting with water colors. Many universities offer free or discounted classes, both online and in the classroom. Check their websites. Several Ivy League universities have partnered with organizations to provide such classes. Also several universities allow you to “audit” a class, where you enjoy the class, learn the concepts, but don’t have to “test” for an actual grade. Similarly, search community organizations and businesses for interesting opportunities. Your local hardware store probably schedules several free workshop classes a year, or sign up for that dance class you have always wanted to take.
Play a game. Learning new board games, card games, or playing stimulating smart phone apps engages and challenges your brain. Several games, especially smart phone apps, are scientifically designed to keep your brain mentally fit. Or join a weekly card game group. Many community organizations post these on their websites.
Challenge yourself. Try a new recipe or experiment with an old standby recipe. Tackle that project around the house – research and study how to do it, make your plan, recruit some assistants, and then do it.
Be social. Actively engaging in relationships and conversations not only stimulates your brain, but also improves your overall happiness. Join a walking club or make a standing commitment with a friend for lunch every week.
Henry Ford voiced some insightful advice on adult learning: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
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