Learning as an Antidote to Aging

There are lots of ways to slow the aging process. We are aware of the value of eating right, exercising, staying positive, watching our alcohol consumption, and avoiding negative people. I try, over time, to do many of these things, with a wide variance of success.

One of the best ways to slow aging isn’t found in cosmetic procedures or dressing like a millennial. It isn’t found in being up on the latest trends that are characteristic of the movers and shakers in our society.

One of the best ways to slow aging is in continuing to be a student your whole life. You don’t have to be enrolled in college or even extended learning programs to stay current in our society. There are a whole or half-day classes available through parks and recreation departments on a wide variety of topics. For instance, if you can’t get the swing of how to effectively operate your high-tech phone, there’s a workshop that’ll teach you. Being able to utilize the basic new technology, like iPhones and basic computers is valuable for all sorts of things including fun games and learning anything you’re curious about.

There are community college drop-in classes for senior citizens, as well as their regular curriculum of semester-long programs. One of my favorite ways to learn a new subject is to sign up for an online seminar, podcast, webinar, TEDTalk, or other online offering, including YouTube how-to videos.

Want to learn how to shuck an oyster, test yourself for COVID, French braid your granddaughter’s hair, speak a foreign language, or increase your awareness and use of artificial intelligence? Google it, and I guarantee there’ll be a venue either online or in your community where you can learn more.

The University of Texas at Dallas conducted a study where the mental abilities of two groups of elders, ages 60-90, were compared over time. One group stuck to familiar activities they’d do at home, like completing a puzzle or listening to classical music. The second group of seniors were asked to learn a new activity, which required them to learn, such as digital photography or even quilting.

The second group, which required learning new skills, showed improvements in memory compared to the first group that did traditional puzzles, without learning new information. Learning stimulates memory and high-level thinking in the brain, researchers say.

“It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially,” Denise Park, a lead researcher, said in a press release.

It’s important to remember, however, there are no guarantees regarding the success of any specific effort to help keep us young. With that caveat, I will continue to pursue learning on many levels and through a variety of methods. Not only might it help slow how quickly we age but it’s fun, and I’m always looking for ways to have fun.

It was Henry Ford who said it well: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  I believe him!