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The Importance of Learning Something New For the Elderly

independent living It’s never too late to learn. Indeed, a surprising number of seniors get their high school or even college degrees well into their retirement. The benefit to these recent graduates is not only the knowledge gained and mental stimulation that comes with preparing for courses but the feeling of accomplishment after achieving a life-long goal.

There are many advantages to continuing the practice of learning. Studies show that when seniors learn a new skill, such as playing an instrument, learning a new language or a new technology, it strengthens connection within the brain and it keeps dementia at bay.

It is very beneficial to continue to challenge yourself to learn new things or to try new things.  Even something as simple as using your non-dominant hand to brush your teeth is useful because you are increasing your motor skills.

Residents of independent living communities usually have opportunities to participate in a new physical activity such as golf or tennis. These are wonderful opportunities to not only keep the mind sharp, but to keep the body fit and flexible, get fresh air, and enjoy the weather.

Another great benefit of continuing education within the independent living community is the opportunity for socializing and making new friends.  Learning something new with someone in the same age group takes off some of the pressure of “competing” with a younger person who is more technically advanced or more agile. In fact, you can bond with some of your classmates over how challenging it is to learn how to use a new phone or to speak a new language, as you are more or less evenly matched.

Learning a new skill, and then mindfully applying what you learn will improve cognitive functions but can also provide years of future enjoyment. Consider taking classes in:

  • Photography;
  • Flower arranging;
  • Drawing;
  • Scrapbooking;
  • Cooking classes – maybe something specific like cooking for someone with diabetes, or low-cholesterol cooking;
  • Learning how to use a smartphone, and using social media such as Facebook or Instagram.

Sometimes, even if the elderly are willing to learn, there are physical barriers which prevent them from learning new skills. If that is the case, go through some basic screening tests, such as getting vision and hearing checked, as it will be very difficult to learn new things without being able to see or hear properly.

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