LEARNING LATER, LIVING GREATER:
The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years.
Lifelong Learning in Your Later Years…
A Health Club for Your Mind, Body, and Spirit!
Last week we discussed the social aspects of lifelong learning. This week we’ll discuss how it benefits your Mind.
Research undertaken at many large universities is now showing that keeping our brains stimulated through later-life learning and other activities will dramatically help retain mental alertness as we age. In other words, the brain’s physical anatomy actually responds to these enriching activities and is changed for the better.
No, you won’t suddenly grow a big head, so don’t throw out all of your old hats. What scientists have discovered is that the brain can grow new connections. Think of it this way: All that old wiring inside your head might lose some of its insulation over the years if you do nothing. But by engaging in lifelong learning, you not only preserve that older wiring with better insulation, but you also grow new cells and pathways, thereby enhancing your response times, thought processes, and reflexes. And the electrical upgrade isn’t even expensive! Of all the findings during the congressionally-mandated Decade of the Brain, this startling new discovery appears to be the most important.
Scientists used to think that the number of neurons - those building blocks of nerve cells - were fixed and never changed. New evidence suggests otherwise. The number actually fluctuates throughout our lives, depending on our activity levels. Armed with this knowledge, we no longer have to worry as much about a gradual decrease in our mental acuity.
As long as we keep challenging our brain - those “little grey cells” as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot was so fond of saying - it appears they will continue to grow and thrive. And the more complex the task or activity, the more synapses are firing in your brain. This leads to increased circulation in your head, and is incredibly beneficial. Scientists are also studying the possibility that this could help stave off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in some people predisposed to those illnesses.
Just like our hearts, our brains need to be nurtured. Lifelong learning is one very important way to ensure that care. Think of it as food for our minds.
THURSDAY’S THOUGHT…Leonardo daVinci, a man ahead of his time, said, “Just as iron rusts from disuse, even so does inaction spoil the intellect.” Or, as we say today, “Use it or lose it.” It really is that simple. If you want your mind to stay sharp, you’ve got to avoid boring routine and embrace mental challenges. Next week, I’ll give you some ideas on how to do that.
For more information on Learning Later, Living Greater visit www.learninglater.com
You can purchase Learning Later, Living Greater at www.amazon.com
Till Next Time…
Nancy Merz Nordstrom is Director of the Lifelong Learning Department at Computer School for Seniors (www.cs4seniors.com)