It’s Never Too Late to Learn: Lifelong Learning for Seniors

An elderly woman learning how to use a computer.

Don’t think that just because you’ve already got your diploma you can’t be an active learner this fall along with all of the other students. It’s never too late to learn something new. In fact, experts say lifelong learning is completely possible for seniors. And they say it is essential if seniors want to keep their minds sharp as they age.

What Lifelong Learning Means

Lifelong learning is different from keeping your mind active. You can stimulate your mind with crossword puzzles and classical music. But learning involves the act of acquiring new knowledge or learning how to do something new.

Listening to classical music would be keeping your mind active, but actually learning how to play one of those songs on the piano, or learning about the composer who wrote it, would involve active learning. Studies have shown it is those active experiences that help keep the mind sharp.

In a recent study, a researcher divided people into groups and gave them different activities to do for 15 hours a week for three months. Some learned new skills, such as quilting and photography, that challenged their long-term memory and attention as they followed complex instructions. Others did tasks that are considered stimulating to the brain – such as listening to classic music or visiting a new location, but that didn’t require learning new things. The people in the study that learned new tasks scored higher on memory tests taken after the study. Brain scans also showed lasting changes in areas of the brain associated with attention and concentration in the participants that acquired new knowledge.

How to Keep Learning

The possibilities are endless. Think of a topic that interests you and start there. Love cats? There are many ways you can involve cats in your learning. For example, learn how to groom cats, and then try it out on your own feline. Or learn how to make homemade gourmet cat food for your fluffy friend, and see how they like it. If it’s a hit, start offering it to friends that have cats. Share the recipe or start your own small business selling locally-sourced cat food. Always wondered what kind of cat you have? Learn more about cat breeds and find out what that stray you took in actually is.

If you love crosswords, it doesn’t mean you can’t do those. But take it a step further. Look up that word that’s always in the crossword that you never knew what it meant. Try other mind challenging games. Learn how to play Wordle. Learn how to do sudoku. Learning how to do these things will help, and then along the way you might find something else you enjoy to spend your time doing.

Learn how to play mancala with the grandkids. Or learn canasta. It may have always seemed too involved or the most complicated card game out there when you were younger. You have the time now. Become a master canasta player, and then invite friends or family to play. Beat them with your newfound knowledge, or share some tips.

Where To Learn

You can keep learning for life anywhere. You can do it at home using books or the computer. Online, YouTube and Ted Talks offer a plethora of information on any topic you can imagine. Head to the local community college. Many offer special classes geared specifically for seniors. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, consider a college or university. Many offer seniors a chance to audit a class they are interested in without fully enrolling in a degree program.

Don’t want to pay to learn? Many local libraries offer free classes for seniors, including sessions on becoming tech savvy or lectures from local experts. Park district and senior centers also are places to check out for learning opportunities. You can even look to the younger generation. Many schools welcome senior volunteers. Head back to school with the kids, and see what new things they are learning in the schools these days. Help the kids, but also learn something new yourself.

We Can Help

If you are looking for someone to help your seniors on their lifelong learning journey, One Solution Home Care can help. Our caregivers can provide companion care so your seniors have someone to play their newly-learned games with, or even someone to talk to about their newfound passions. 

One Solution Home Care helps people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island live full, independent, safe and dignified lives within the comfort of their own homes. If you are ready to talk about hiring an in home caregiver, we are available to answer any questions you might have. Fill out our online form or give us a call at (508) 617-8233.