Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lifelong Learning Thursday

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret of Making the Most of Your After 50 Years will share the benefits of Lifelong Learning on Thursdays.

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!

Still need convincing that challenging your mind keeps it in tip-top shape? Here are some of the highpoints of recent research that has to do with keeping your mind sharp.

Doctors Fred H. Gage of the Salk Institute in San Diego and Peter S. Eriksson of the Goteborg University Institute of Clinical Neuroscience have collected data that shows that the brain of adult humans - even older adults - regularly regenerate neurons in the hippocampus (the section of the brain responsible for learning).

The research of Doctor Marion Diamond, University of California, Berkeley, with rats shows the positive relationship between an enriched environment (cages with toys and other rats) and brain development in rats. “The enriched rats had a thicker cerebral cortex (responsible for higher nervous functions), than the rats (in impoverished environments).”

Doctor Paul Nussbaum, a clinical neuropsychologist, professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School and the Director of the Aging Research and Education Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania says that based on the new knowledge about the brain he recommends that habits of mental stimulation be maintained throughout life.

His vision for learning in later life - which he views as an excellent way to keep older adults fully integrated in society – is that lifelong learning can be used to keep Third Age adults, with their capacity to continue learning, useful to society. Those of us over 50 represent a vast resource for teaching, civic involvement and meaningful service.

Ron Kotulak, author of Inside the Brain: Revolutionary Discoveries of How the Mind Works, which is based on his Pulitzer-prize winning series for the Chicago Tribune says “Education has both a biological and behavioral positive effect. Biologically, it works by laying down significantly more connections between brain cells. Behaviorally, it works by providing knowledge that empowers one to articulate needs and overcome potential barriers.”

In a study of more than 1,000 people, ages seventy to eighty, Dr. Marilyn Albert, associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Harvard and director of gerontology research at Massachusetts General Hospital found the higher the education level, the more likely people were to engage in mentally stimulating activities.

Her study also uncovered four main factors that seemed to help older adults maintain their cognitive abilities. They are:
1. Education, which appears to increase the number and strength of connections between brain cells.
2. Strenuous activity, which improves blood flow to the brain.
3. Lung function, which makes sure the blood is adequately oxygenated.
4. The feeling that what you do makes a difference in your life.

More on all this next week…

In the words of Deanna Baxter Eversoll, Ph.D., “What we once thought was inevitable – significant memory loss with age – is not inevitable. A significant portion of our loss is the result of lack of brain exercise through significant problem-solving, activities and the lack of interest in continuing to learn and be curious about the world around us.” So keep questioning life and looking for answers. Your mind will thank you for it.

For more information on Learning Later, Living Greater visit

You can purchase Learning Later, Living Greater at

Till Next Time…

Nancy Merz Nordstrom is Director of the Lifelong Learning Department at Computer School for Seniors (


Anonymous said...

This is a great post, Nancy! I'm going to use some of it in my classroom. I knew this was true, but didn't have the quotation to use. Thanks! Mimi

Nancy Merz Nordstrom said...

You're welcome!