My husband and I went to England two summers ago and spent a wonderful week at Oxford University. We took part in their Oxford Experience, where you get to live, study, and eat (literary readers, note my Oxford comma there), at Christ Church College for the duration of a mini-course. Every element of it was fascinating: the course materials, the discussions, the field trips, the High Table dinners in hall. You get to walk in a thoroughly snobby way past the tourists into the “residents only” areas of the college. Loved it.
I mention this because after that program I signed up for every kind of Oxford mailing list, and so I regularly receive Facebook posts and promotional emails full of informative links. The one that caught my attention this week was:
The article is clearly a marketing piece for their Continuing Ed programs, but they’re great so I feel okay posting it. AND, it’s full of links about research I’m pretty excited about: how lifelong learning benefits the brain throughout life, especially in our later years.
Contrary to earlier beliefs, our brains remain “plastic” — able to re-wire in the face of injury or illness, so to speak — even when we’re old. We don’t have to give in to the notion of inevitable decline. Yes, we can learn that language, instrument, skill, what have you, at any age.
Our culture has traditionally considered retirement a time to kick back and stop doing what you’ve been doing for decades. Slow down, relax. However, researchers in brain health now say that, in fact:
At retirement age, the expectation is that we will slow down. Most people yearn for the day they can slow down and strive less – little knowing that this is probably the very worst thing they can do.
This is really good news for people willing to “take up the challenge to learn.” The article gives the example of well-known artists who lived and produced great work well into their 80s. We don’t all have to be Michaelangelos, but for sure there are many opportunities for people to expand and grow creatively before and after retirement.
In what ways do YOU want to continue learning? How will you keep your brain active as you move toward (or further along in) retirement? Comment below! (In the meantime, I’m going to check out the video on lifestyle changes that can help ward off dementia in one of the article’s sidebar links. We can chat about that one next time!)