“Use it or lose it!”
While this advice originally applied to physical fitness and muscle mass, it is now being used to describe our need to maintain brain fitness as we get older. Today, expert sources, such as the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association, actively promote ongoing learning and brain-healthy activities to keep your mind sharp as well as to delay or possibly even prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
While many think of college or graduate school as the end of the traditional education cycle, continuous education or “lifelong learning” is now being touted as an essential ingredient for healthy aging.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever,” Mahatma Gandhi.
According to the article, “Aging: Learning New Things Helps Your Mind Stay Young,” you are never too old to learn something new. Keeping the mind young and looking forward to what each day brings can also reap physical benefits by reducing stress, and its negative side effects, and warding off depression.
The article compares the mind to a plant, which requires regular feeding and nurturing. If you “water” it through mental activity and challenges, it will grow. Although a brain may get old, it still produces new cells, scientists say, that aid in communication between different parts of the brain and in the retrieval of information.
Continuous Learning Offers a Variety of Benefits
Continuous or lifelong learning is defined as the process of keeping your mind and body engaged – at any age – by actively pursuing knowledge and experiences. Figures from the National Center for Education Statistics show that close to half of the adult population in the United States is currently enrolled in some form of lifelong learning.
The article, “The Benefits of Lifelong Learning for Adults 50-plus,” states, “The pursuit of knowledge through lifelong learning – whether it’s learning how to dance, speak a foreign language, write a newsletter, improve your golf swing, or repair your car – has wonderful benefits for adults 50-plus. Many of these benefits relate to brain fitness, but there are other benefits as well. Examples include:
- Keeping your mind sharp
- Improving your memory
- Increasing self-confidence
- Offering an inexpensive way to try something new
- Saving money as you learn to ‘do it yourself’
- Giving you a feeling of accomplishment
- Helping you meet people who share your interests
- Building on skills you already have
- Giving you a new interest that you can share with family and friends
Tips for Staying Mentally Sharp
Based on the U.S. News special report, “How to Live to 100,” a related article, “10 Ways to Stay Mentally Young,” addresses the mounting evidence for how dramatically physical and cognitive fitness activities promote healthy aging, help ward off physical and cognitive decline and illnesses as well as add years to our lives.
The article asserts that as we learn new things, our brains create new synapses, or connections, between neurons. Building more synapses, thus a denser web of connections, is associated with maintaining cognitive health as we age.
The operative word here is “new.” With that in mind, the article provides a list of 10 things experts say can help keep your brain stay young, even as your chronological age increases:
- Learn a new language – This is at the top of many lists for activities that give your brain a real workout and force it to create new pathways to learn.
- Learn an instrument – The combination of learning new physical skills on an instrument and learning to make music is great mental exercise.
- Get lost – Go to an unfamiliar area and force yourself to navigate it. Realizing you have the skills to deal with new situations builds confidence and gives your brain a workout.
- Volunteer – Getting involved in a new endeavor will introduce you to new people and activities. Broadening your circle of friends and acquaintances is healthy on multiple grounds.
- Get uncomfortable – This is another variation of getting lost. If we only engage in comfortable activities we know, part of us stops learning and growing. Accepting the feeling of being a bit uncomfortable – with new surroundings, activities and people – is a good way to help you become more open to new experiences and learning opportunities.
- Be physical – Assuming your doctor approves, aggressive physical exercise is good for your body and great for cognitive health. Even moderate exercise is helpful.
- Play new and challenging games – Your brain loves to play. In fact, play appears to have a stronger role in human development than for any other animal on the planet. Again, it helps fire up those new synapses if the game is new and not too easy.
- Take classes – Exposing yourself to new ideas, classmates and even classroom settings hits several of the targets that experts associate with cognitive health.
- Embrace new technology – Staying connected in a digital world may seem like an uphill slog you don't want to take, but it can have huge brain-health benefits, as you learn new things and connect with new people and ideas.
- Keep opening new doorways – Your brain is endlessly curious about the unknown and appears to be a sponge for new ideas and experiences. You should be, too.
Scott Richardson, Senior Director of Resident Services at Williamsburg Landing, says, “At Williamsburg Landing, we embrace the value of wellness, social engagement and opportunities for continuous learning. Keeping your mind and body active and fit promotes healthy aging and maximizes your opportunities to enjoy all of life’s new adventures awaiting you. With the many cultural, educational, recreational and social events and activities offered – both on and off site – Williamsburg Landing elevates your lifestyle and enriches your life – mind, body and spirit.”
Welcome to Williamsburg Landing
Looking for a vibrant, engaging and fulfilling way of life? If so, you’ll find it at Williamsburg Landing.
Nestled on 137 wooded acres along the serene banks of College Creek in Williamsburg, VA, Williamsburg Landing is the premier, not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) serving Williamsburg and it’s surrounding areas since 1985. With one visit, you’ll understand what makes Williamsburg Landing so special.
Williamsburg Landing is an ideal blend of beautiful landscaping and elegant, Colonial architecture. It invites residents to become part of its vibrant, active lifestyle and rest assured in its award-winning medical care. It eases worries with maintenance-free homes and apartments with resort-style amenities and services. The community thrives with energetic, involved and friendly people who love to live here and the warmth of dedicated, committed professionals who love to work here.
With a past rich in tradition and a future filled with promise, Williamsburg Landing is the perfect place to call home – for today and tomorrow.