Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lifelong Learning: Our Minds, Bodies & Spirits

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret of Making the Most of Your After 50 Years shares the benefits of Lifelong Learning in this post.


 



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!

So, what is it about lifelong learning keep that keeps our minds, bodies and spirits active and alert? Let’s take a look.

Our Minds



Research during the 1990’s, a decade of pioneering brain research, proved that a stimulated mind promotes a healthy brain. The studies were conducted at many well-known university research facilities, and showed that keeping brains stimulated helps retain mental alertness as people age.

The brain’s physical anatomy actually responds to enriching mental activities. Scientists have discovered that the brain, even an aging brain, can grow new connections and pathways when challenged and stimulated.

These studies point out the value of incorporating lifelong learning into our later lives. Albert Einstein, Claude Monet, Arturo Toscanini, Hume Cronyn and Pablo Casals, as well as many others, were all productive and vibrant well into old age. Every day that they used their skills and talents to produce great works, they were learning.






In the words of Dr. Paul Nussbaum, Director of the Aging Research and Education Center in Pittsburgh, PA, “…every time your heart beats, 25% of that blood goes right to the brain. But while exercise is critical, it may be education that is more important. In the 21st century, education and information may become for the brain what exercise is for the heart.” Just like the human heart, our brains need to be nurtured through the health club known as lifelong learning.

Our Bodies



Along with keeping our minds alert and stimulated as we age, everyone knows the importance of keeping our bodies active. Lifelong learning programs offer ways to incorporate activity into our daily lives. For instance, spirituality, meditation, stress reduction, yoga, exercise of all types, walking clubs, and outdoor programs are but a few of the many opportunities available.

If learning through educational travel sounds more appealing, then be prepared to actively explore new and different places, not just ride from place to place on a bus. Later-life learners who travel are out and about, taking part in spirited discussions, talking with the locals, and examining unique places up close and personal.

Lifelong learning through work within the community is yet another way of staying active, interacting with society, and keeping connected to life. Dedicated volunteers are not watching life pass them by through their living room windows. They are actively making a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. So, learning later is not only a health club for our minds, but for our bodies, as well. Regardless of your level of involvement, later-life learning promotes necessary physical activity which is especially valuable as we age.

Our Spirits





Finally, learning in later life engages our spirits. It provides the needed social interaction that is often lacking as we age. Older adults join lifelong learning programs as much for the social aspects as for the learning. Outdoor programs, field trips, luncheons, parties, and travel far and near, give mature adults the opportunity to make new friends, engage in stimulating give-and-take discussions, and share in life’s ups and downs with like-minded people. Life gets a little overwhelming at times. How better to get through these challenges than by sharing them with other later-life learners?

Making learning part of our later years also fosters a sense of personal empowerment and increased self-esteem. It ensures continued growth and intellectual stimulation, leading to a more fulfilling, enjoyable and enriched lifestyle. So, learning later is a health club for our spirits as well.

Those who participate in more formal programs of later-life learning discover their intellectual, social, spiritual and physical horizons have expanded far beyond any previous expectations.

David, a later-life learner from New York, concurs. “We have a fantastic program for personal discovery,” he says. “We base everything on the belief that our capacity to learn and grow does not decrease as our years increase. In fact, through learning and the adventures we embark on, we actually embrace self-fulfillment.” His statement really says it all!

Continuing to learn after age 50 is vitally important. It helps develop our natural abilities, immerses us in the wonders of life, stimulates our natural curiosity about the world, increases our wisdom, enables us to use our experiences to make the world a better place, and helps us face the inevitable changes of society.

Without a doubt, learning later is truly a health club for our minds, bodies and spirits. Using this health club every day ensures that our lives will be richer, more fulfilled and far more satisfying.

THURSDAY’S THOUGHT…
“Ah, nothing is too late,
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers
When each had numbered more than fourscore years.”

…Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nancy. Mark and I always enjoy your posts and this one was especially good!