We can all benefit from learning something new every day — especially if you are an older adult. Life presents learning opportunities all the time, and our brains are wired to take advantage of them. That ability doesn’t stop as we age. In fact, new skills for seniors to learn, like hobbies and crafts, languages, and games, are proving to be important not just to maintaining mental and physical health but to improving cognitive abilities. It’s not enough to exercise and eat well to avoid cognitive decline; we should learn new skills, too. Doing so activates neuron receptors that help the brain function more efficiently and can help preserve memory function. In short, learning is good for you in more ways than one!
The Importance of Lifelong Learning
Society pays a lot of attention to learning opportunities for children, and rightly so. If a child’s chances at learning are impeded, people — and oftentimes the law — step in. But far less attention is paid to the importance of lifelong learning and its role in not just how it can improve one’s quality of life as we age but in its contribution to cognitive health. Learning new skills, and perhaps even getting out of one’s comfort zone, can help keep the mind and memory sharp. And while pursuing any new skill is a good idea, cognition is best improved by choosing to learn a skill that requires time, dedication, and effort — in other words, one that’s not easily mastered. That way, more brain power is required as you try to meet challenges and achieve success.
Getting Good at Something Is Good for You!
When it comes to seniors learning new skills, there’s no lack of choices. If you want to encourage your loved one to learn something new, sit down and find out what interests them. Do they like the outdoors? If so, maybe they would like to learn how to garden. Are they physically active and able-bodied? Suggest learning a new sport. The number of participants over 80 playing pickleball is growing by leaps and bounds! If they enjoy being with others, getting good at a game like mahjong, bridge, or chess might be a fun way to boost brain health.
Learning how to speak a new language, play an instrument, write a short story — these are all ways in which seniors can challenge themselves in fun and meaningful ways while improving their mental abilities. There is even evidence to suggest that lifelong learning can slow cognitive decline.
Taking on a new skill, indulging in one’s interests, staying focused on processes, and making time for learning are all ways that seniors can become engaged with the world and with themselves — and that can help to reduce boredom, anxiety, depression, and contribute to a general sense of well-being!