Lifelong learning is a health elixir for seniors

September is when kids go back to school and young adults return to university or college. For older adults, it’s also an opportune time to begin the next adventure in your journey as a lifelong learner.

One big advantage of learning as a senior is that you have the time and the freedom to choose what and how you want to learn, based on your interests and lifestyle. You may enjoy formal learning by registering for a non-credit course, seminars or lectures at your local university or college. Or, you might have more fun informally learning new techniques and meeting new people by joining a photography or cooking group.

Never too late to learn

Many studies have shown people who have a good education and intellectual stimulation in early and mid-life have a lower risk of dementia. But a JAMA Neurology study found that people who engaged in new learning activities in mid-life and later in life raised their cognitive scores and had less cognitive impairment over time. Older adults who volunteered in elementary schools sharpened their minds and improved their executive function, showing better judgement and reasoning in making decisions.

So, it’s never too late to start training your brain. Continuing to learn over time improves your memory and helps new brain cells to survive longer, according to Learning and Memory.

Senior woman studying at an adult education classBoost immunity and lower anxiety

Learning later in life offers many other health benefits, too. Older adults who engage in regular learning activities boost their immune systems and have lower levels of anxiety and social isolation, according to Simon Fraser University. Lifelong learners are also less likely to visit a doctor, take medication or suffer from depression, George Washington University Medical Center reported.

Exercising your brain through learning increases cognitive reserve, so you’re better able to cope with life’s challenges, says the Geriatric Psychiatric Program at Dalhousie University.

Proud graduates

At Chartwell Westmount Long Term Residence in Kitchener, Ontario, a dozen senior “students” donned their caps and gowns at a commencement ceremony in July after successfully completing courses at Chartwell’s Westmount Academy. The impetus for the Academy came from residents, who shared personal stories about their lack of formal education due to circumstances such as war, work and family responsibilities.

Chartwell Retirement Residences offers a wide range of stimulating lifestyle programming and activities—from book clubs, movies and bridge nights to community excursions—which help keep older adults mentally and socially engaged. Click here to learn more.