The Benefits of Lifelong Learning in Older Adults
Seniors occasionally need help learning new things. The National Institute On Aging’s piece on the aging brain notes how aging can affect thinking in multiple ways. This includes poorer blood flow, inflammation, and shrinking certain parts of the brain, especially those critical to learning and other complex mental activities.
Despite these handicaps, older adults can still do many things they have always enjoyed and even learn new skills. Through lifelong learning, they can engage themselves and build intellectual wellness, which is crucial for independent living.
Lifelong Learning Definition
According to dictionary.com, lifelong learning is defined as:
the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment
Here at Jewish Senior Life Michigan, we encourage and support the personal fulfillment of all our residents.
Lifelong Learning Benefits
Why is lifelong learning important? Although some may argue that education is only for the young, older adults can also benefit from taking on fresh tasks and developing skills. These deliver positive changes to their lifestyle, bringing about good cognitive change while building new memories and improving performance. Listed below are some benefits of lifelong learning.
Slow Down Cognitive Decline
When growing older, many often worry about their cognitive ability. While no medical treatment can cure dementia, its onset can be delayed through brain-healthy behaviors. Lifelong learning enables older adults to keep their brains engaged, helping their minds stay sharp.
As found in a study on cognitive decline by the Delaware Academy of Medicine, mental stimulation changes neuroplasticity, which is how individual neuron pathways develop to affect learning and memory. Although older adults usually have limited neuroplasticity, constant learning and social engagement can prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia.
Moreover, older adults also benefit from improved memory and creativity, which can motivate them to continue participating in stimulating activities. Every residence at JSLMI offers socialization, music, artistic, and wellness activities.
Promote Socialization and Activity
The stress of growing old can take a toll mentally, which often causes seniors to feel alienated from their friends and family. Our post on “Social Isolation” shares how studies have shown that isolated individuals are more likely to become critically ill or worse. They even have a 30% higher risk of suffering from a stroke or heart attack.
To combat social isolation issues, Jewish Senior Life residents are provided with plenty of social activities that bring them together and keep them active. They can enjoy painting, creative writing, cardio drumming, and even video games to stimulate their brain and heart health. These activities help them learn and adopt fun hobbies, keeping their activity levels up while creating a rewarding social circle.
Adopting Lifelong Learning For Older Adults
As mentioned earlier, hobbies can be a great way to engage the mind and body. In addition to crafts, Jewish Senior Life also provides valuable programs that stimulate and educate, discussing wellness, current events, and aging science, among others. These programs enable seniors to learn more about themselves, which can provide them with valuable information and practical life skills.
With the increasing accessibility of technology, digital tools have similarly become a great way to learn about almost anything. Technology is ever-evolving, so interested adults are always encouraged to keep up with trends.
However, as insights on cybersecurity from Maryville University point out, this growing interconnectedness has led to increased threats online. Case in point, the healthcare industry saw hackers taking advantage of COVID-19 fears, exploiting fraud schemes, phishing attacks, and vulnerabilities in healthcare vendor systems.
To stay safe online, adults must learn about these risks and maintain good practices like changing passwords; this keeps their data safe while helping improve recall skills.
Learning As A Lifelong Process
Through different learning experiences, older adults can stimulate their minds and slow cognitive decline. Participating in craft and exercise programs can also be a great way to engage the brain and body while enjoying the benefits of socialization. By investing in lifelong learning, older adults can better appreciate the rest of their senior years.
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Article exclusively written for jslmi.org by JB Newman