I strongly disagree with the cliché that old dog can’t be taught new tricks, because learning something new can do wonders for brains of all ages.
1. Adult education may delay cognitive decline
Well, we certainly aren’t getting any younger, and as we all age, the reality of losing some of our memory and brain power can be quite frightening. Adult education in late midlife may help to delay cognitive decline.1 That’s great news for those of us who value our independence and well-being as we get older.
2. Learning connects the dots
Information is stored and retrieved through complex neural connections. Neural connections continue to develop and change throughout life, creating networks of understanding.2 When you learn something new you are literally changing your brain. The process of learning helps us to create new neural connections. You may not be able to remember the name of that certain celebrity, but as you get older, your brain is better able to look at the big picture thanks to a strong web of neural connections.
3. Learning something new makes you feel good
Last but not least, participating in either formal (certificate-based) or informal (just for the joy of learning) adult education classes is associate with improvement in self-confidence, your perception of self-worth, and reduction in self-reported depression.3 Ok, so now that we’re all on board, where should we start learning?
Hit the (library) stacks
A proponent of the local library since age 4, I’m a big fan of burying yourself in the free knowledge that resides between the stacks. Grab a pile of non-fiction books on a topic that intrigues you and dive in. Beyond just books, your local library often has events that can help you grow even more. Ask your friendly librarian.
Let your community guide you
Community centers, local colleges, and even your coffee shops have classes on everything from calligraphy to cooking. And we’re only talking about the “Cs” here.
Escape the clickholes and actually learn something from the world wide web
While it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of interesting information on the world wide web, commit to learning something new by signing up for an online class. On my to-do list? Rouxbe Virtual Cooking Course, Food Photography School and Hand-Lettering eCourse. Want a 5 minute knowledge break? Head to TedX and I’ll see you in a couple hours.
Show me how YOU are learning something new by tagging #BestLifeProject on your Instagram pics.
- Hatch SL, et al. (2007). The Continuing Benefits of Education: Adult Education and Midlife Cognitive Ability in the British 1946 Birth Cohort. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences. 62(6): S404–S414. Accessed on 12/22/14 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983917/
- Zull JE. (2011). From Brain to Mind: Using Neuroscience to Guide Change in Education. Stylus Publishing. 3. UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. (2012). Review and Update of Research into the Wider Benefits of Adult Learning. Accessed on 12/22/14 from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/34671/12-1243-review-wider-benefits-of-adult-learning.pdf