Why You Should Challenge Your Brain Every Day

One year, while I was teaching the senior-level English course, one of my students declared that they were glad there were only a few weeks left until graduation because then they wouldn’t have to read or learn anything anymore.

As an advocate for life-long learning, I felt compelled to tell them that they should aim to learn something new every day of their lives. My students thought I was crazy. Maybe so, but now, even as a retired teacher, I still feel strongly that we should always strive to learn something new.

My Greatest Fear as I Grow Older

When I was a kid, an older person who had difficulty remembering things was diagnosed as being senile. With the advances in medicine and medical studies, that one “all-inclusive” term has been replaced with more specific diagnoses each having specific sets of symptoms: dementia, Alzheimer’s, and neurocognitive disorder.

No matter what we call it, my greatest fear as I grow older is to lose my memories and ability to think rationally.

When my mother’s significant other was diagnosed with Dementia, I watched my mother struggle with his erratic behaviors and memory loss. I listened to her frustration when he set off the house alarm in the middle of the night, when he yelled at the nonexistent people in the yard, or when he insisted that she had said something she hadn’t said. I watched her struggle to convince his adult children that she could no longer care for him on her own. I watched her struggle to get his children to secure him a space in a facility that would care for him better than she could.

The fear of slowly being stripped of my memories or the recognition of loved ones has me researching these diseases and ways to keep my brain active and healthy.

Can One Decrease the Chance of Mental Decline

According to nidirect government services, “Studies show that mental decline is not an inevitable part of aging. People who lead intellectually stimulating lives are more likely to be free of dementia conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease.”

It is easy to see that physical activity is essential for mobility, flexibility, and stamina. It is easy to feel that eating healthy, whole foods that have not been overly processed aids in our ability to feel good and be healthy.

What so many of us don’t see is that using our brain makes it work the best. Instead, we graduate from high school or college and feel like we don’t have to learn anything more. We retire from the workforce, and without a clear plan for our future, we sit in front of the television because we are bored.

Enter Life-long Learning. When?

I ran into the term life-long learning during my master’s classes at St. Xavier University in the 1990s. I learned that the concept of life-long learning had been around for nearly 75 years. Basil Yeaxlee initially coined the term life-long learning back in 1929, but the concept didn’t gain a concrete following until a UNESCO conference in the 1960s. The complete history of the development of life-long learning, however, is much more complex.

Life-long Learning. Why?

  1. Life-long learning helps you remain relevant. It helps you communicate with your adult children as well as your grandchildren.
  2. Life-long learning strengthens your confidence.
  3. Life-long learning helps you evaluate the world of information, make clear decisions, and keep an open mind.
  4. Life-long learning helps you learn more about yourself and your interests.

How Can You Be a Life-long Learner?

The more society realizes that it is beneficial to continue learning the more opportunities begin to blossom, and with the internet, opportunities are infinite.

  1. Look up the offerings at your local senior center or county community center. Many offer dancing and movement classes, art classes, cooking classes, trips, and tour opportunities.
  2. Check out the local college or university. Many offer courses under the category of “Learning in Retirement.” Other establishments allow seniors to audit certain courses.
  3. Television and the internet offer documentaries on a variety of topics: a new hobby, learning about a place of interest, learning about events in history.
  4. Listen to Podcasts and TED talks.
  5. Read! Read! Read! Read the news instead of just listening to the news channels. Read biographies about people who interest you. Read history, science, politics, and religions. Read fiction.
  6. Use word search books, crossword puzzle books, and other kinds of pencil and paper books.
  7. Use one of the many apps to learn a new language.

“Life is rarely boring if you are open to learning new things.”

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about life-long learning.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Until next time . . .

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