Senior Citizen's Guide to Washington County Spring/Summer Edition 2017 - page 26

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retain mental alertness as people
age. The brain’s physical anatomy
actually responds to enriching
mental activities. Scientists have
discovered that the brain, even
an aging brain, can grow new
connections and pathways when
challenged and stimulated.
These studies point out the value
of incorporating lifelong learning
into later lives. Albert Einstein,
Claude Monet, Arturo Toscanini,
Hume Cronyn, and Pablo Casals,
as well as many others, were all
productive and vibrant well into old
age. Every day that they used their
skills and talents to produce great
works, they were learning.
In the words of Dr. Paul
Nussbaum, Director of the Aging
Research and Education Center in
Pittsburgh, PA, “Every time your
heart beats, 25% of that blood goes
right to the brain. But while exercise
is critical, it may be education
that is more important. In the 21st
century, education and information
may become for the brain what
exercise is for the heart.” Just like
the human heart, brains need to be
nurtured. Lifelong learning, then,
is like a health club for the brain.
Along with keeping brains
alert and stimulated as people age,
everyone knows the importance
of keeping bodies active. Lifelong
learning can help in this area, as
well. Numerous programs offer
ways to incorporate activity into
daily life. For instance, spirituality,
meditation, stress reduction, yoga,
exercise of all types, the creative
arts, walking clubs, and being
outdoors are but a few of the many
subjects available.
If learning through educational
travel sounds more appealing, then
be prepared to actively explore
new and different places, not just
ride from place to place on a bus.
These lifelong learners are out
and about, taking part in spirited
discussions, talking with the locals,
and examining unique places up
close and personal.
Lifelong learning through work
within the community is yet another
way of staying active, interacting
with society, and keeping connected
to life. Dedicated volunteers are not
watching life pass them by through
their living roomwindow. Lifelong
learning is not only a health club for
the brain, but for the body, as well.
Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M.Ed., is
the author of Learning Later, Living
Greater: The Secret for Making
the Most of Your After-50 Years.
For more information, visit www.
learninglater.com. Nancy also
directs the Elderhostel Institute
Network, North America’s largest
educational network for older
adults. More than 350 lifelong
learning institutes with over
150,000 members are affiliated with
the Network.
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