New Learning May Protect Cognition and Memory

New learning is a vital part of aging well, to stay vibrant and engaged mentally. Here are six suggestions for keeping you mentally sharp and your enthusiasm stoked.

Make lifelong learning a habit

Even though you finished school years ago, learning should be a lifetime pursuit. Keep growing mentally and you can potentially slow the encroachment of age related cognitive decline. A lifetime of ongoing learning causes the brain to increase connections internally, keeping the network intact. Besides, it’s just fun.

Read to stay mentally sharp

If you haven’t cultivated being a lifelong reader, it’s time to make up for all the treasure you’ve missed. Reading builds knowledge, stimulates thinking and opens whole new worlds of interests. Reading engages the mind in active thinking as compared to watching television or movies, which is a more passive means of receiving information.

Take continuing education classes

Many community colleges and universities offer classes on a whole universe of topics. Are you intimidated by a lack of computer skills? There’s a class for that! Always liked taking pictures? Enroll in a photography class.

Learn a foreign language

Here’s a learning experience that can pay off in sustained cognitive ability and practical application in travel. Acquisition of a new language deeply engages the brain in concentration, switching back and forth from your native language and the newly acquired one. Some studies show that learning a language fights cognitive decline in older adults. Plus, learning French or German pays dividends for the rich experience of traveling abroad. And it’s fun to be able to speak a new language!

Learn to play a musical instrument

Making music engages virtually the entire brain. Studies have shown that musicians have more “gray matter” in their brain than non-musicians and that connective “white matter” grows with learning music. Learning an instrument also has a therapeutic effect on emotions and can provide entertainment for yourself and loved ones.

Work puzzles that keep the aging brain engaged 

Crossword puzzles make you think to solve clues and recall vocabulary. Logic puzzles make you process thoughts in rational sequence. Games that require strategy cause you to plan ahead and anticipate your opponent’s moves. All of these give your brain a work out, keeping synapses firing.

Find a hobby you’ll enjoy

With kids grown and your career winding down, finding an enjoyable hobby can keep you interested and motivated in something to do most days. Become a collector of memorabilia that interest you. Learn a craft or creative pursuit. Let your interest take hold of whatever suits your fancy. You’ve reached the age where you can relax from commitments and indulge yourself.