Youngsters everywhere are preparing to go back to school. But learning is not only for the young. Research shows that our brains continue to be flexible and take in new information throughout our lives. “As we age, we should pick up different tasks, skills and hobbies,” says Sister Janet Marie Bagniewski, FSE, RN. There is no time limit for learning a new language or honing a specialized skill. Here are some excellent reasons to give adult learning a try:
1. You Know What You Want to Learn
Learning as an adult means that you get to choose what you are learning and you can pursue that interest as far as you want. Many people have to set aside dreams and hobbies for professional careers or family needs. Demands on your time change as you age, so you may be more free than ever to make those dreams a reality. Retirement is often a time to finally take piano lessons, travel the world, or become a master at chess.
2. Learn on Your Own
In this age of technology it is easier than ever to teach yourself using resources online. Instruction videos and chat rooms can help people with similar interests work together. You can also reach qualified professionals and find classes and events in your area. If you still prefer a classroom environment you can look through a college or university course catalogue online to see what they offer.
All the skills and experiences developed earlier in life help in the learning process. Years of staying organized and managing time make it easier to stay focused and goal-oriented. Older adults also have greater self-awareness, so it is easier to know when to dig deeper on a project or take a break.
4. The More You Use Your Brain the Better
There is a lot truth to the old phrase “Use it or Lose It”! Exercising cognition and memory keeps the brain agile. The brain changes neural pathways as it takes in new experiences. This is sometimes called “rewiring”. Our brains can improve with more mental exercise, just like our muscles change with exercise.
5. Learn What Matters
Mature adults may also feel compelled to learn more about their faith. “The older we get the more we are interested in the history and origin of where things come from,” says Sister Janet Marie, “Where did I come from? Where am I going [after death]?” It is important to pursue these questions through spiritual reading, prayer and speaking with a priest or minister.
Although there is a tremendous capacity for learning during childhood, the human brain continues to take in new information at every age. More mature people may recognize a renewed interest in learning something that they have desired for many years. Now is the time!
Sister Janet Marie Bagniewski, FSE, RN is the Training Coordinator at Franciscan Ever There Care. Sister Janet Marie has decades of experience working in a variety of healthcare settings. She specializes in geriatric and memory care.