Question: What can I do to stay engaged and keep my mind fresh now that I am at home so much more?
Engaging our brain in new ways is an excellent way to keep our minds fresh and active. There are many ways to do this and you can find the best fit for you. It is recommended to try new hobbies, learn new skills, and engage in conversation and debate. Scientists have found that challenging the brain with new activities helps to build new brain cells and strengthen connections between them. This helps build the resiliency of your brain. We also know staying active and engaged is a great way to ward off feelings of depression and isolation.
Some changes in the way we learn and think are normal as we age. For example, it is normal to have more trouble thinking of words or names. It may be more difficult to multitask then it was before, or your attention span may decrease slightly. However, this does not affect your ability to learn new things and create new memories. Recognize that those changes are normal and be patient with yourself.
In Ventura County, we have many opportunities for online classes and learning opportunities even during the COVID-19 era. There is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) through California State University Channel Islands. This program brings college classes to adults age 50 and up. The concept is “learning for the joy of learning” without the pressure or need for grades or credits. I love this concept and know how important it is that everyone can stretch their minds and engage in learning at every age. They have transitioned all their classes to be offered online during this time. You can learn more at go.csuci.edu/olli or call 805-437-2748 (ext.2).
There is a new similar program out of California Lutheran University called the “Fifty and Better” lifelong learning program. They offer many interesting classes including ones on the science of a pandemic, classes on poetry and the arts. Their next session begins July 27th and you can sign up or learn more by emailing FAB@callutheran.edu or on their website at https://www.callutheran.edu/centers/lifelong-learning/fifty-better.html. While there is a benefit to in person classes, the bright side to these online offerings is that geography, transportation and time of commute are no longer an issue. You can choose the class you are most interested in without having to worry about the location.
There was a study that showed that older adults performed worse on memory tests when they were first told stereotypes about older adults and forgetfulness. When they were told first that older adults can still preserve memory and learn new things, they performed better on the same memory tests. This shows the power of positive thinking. Allowing yourself to engage in new things and believing that you are smart and capable is important to your own success.
No longer are you required to take classes for credits, grades or to fulfil any requirements. Now the learning you do is motivated only by your interests and passions. Learning does not need to entail a formal class but can include taking up an instrument or hobby on your own. There are always ways to stay engaged and not only will it improve your mood, but you are strengthening your own resiliency.
Martha Shapiro can reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at email@example.com.