5 Reasons Lifelong Learning is Key for Elders
Posted by Conner Gesbocker on Tue, Sep 26, 17
How should a person age? There was a time when the prevailing opinion was that after having a career and perhaps marrying and raising a family, you should simply “kick back” and enjoy your retirement years. Implied in this kind of thinking was that you really shouldn’t challenge yourself, and instead should just passively absorb the events taking place around you. We now know that this approach to aging is both unhealthy and unfulfilling.
Being an elder should open the door to all kinds of new adventures. And that doesn’t have to mean climbing Mount Everest. Anything that moves an elder out of their comfort zone and poses a new challenge is good for them. In education, they use the term “lifelong learning,” and nowhere is that more important than in eldercare.
Benefits of Challenging Yourself
As an elder, learning new skills, taking on new tasks, and continuing to explore the world around you provides a whole host of mental and physical benefits, including:
- Memory maintenance. Cognitive decline is common in elders. Participating in the “mental workout” required to understand new concepts or learn new processes can help fight memory loss in the same way that a physical workout prevents muscle atrophy.
- Increased verbal capacity. As we age, our vocabulary tends to narrow, and we begin to rely too heavily on our “go to” words and phrases. Doing crossword puzzles, reading a book on a subject we’re unfamiliar with, and simply talking with people about new topics can help expand our vocabulary and improve our ability to communicate effectively.
- More social connections. Lifelong learning helps you create new friendships in multiple ways. First, exploring new ideas with others creates an immediate bond with them. And second, new knowledge opens the door to participating in conversations and activities where you previously felt unable to contribute.
- Improved physical ability. When learning involves a skill like knitting, wood carving, or gardening, the activity can help improve balance, coordination, flexibility, and manual dexterity. And as an added benefit, all of these improvements help to grow your confidence.
- Increased sense of accomplishment and well-being. Learning and then sharing that knowledge provides powerful confirmation that you don’t need to simply “kickback” as an elder. Instead, you can continue to challenge yourself and can serve as a source of information and encouragement for others.