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Lifelong Learning: Your Brain’s Greatest Companion
September 1, 2022
Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” This is such an interesting thought to ponder – that our ongoing motivation to learn something new is exactly what keeps us young beyond our years. But, we know this to be true because our brains crave stimulation – for our neurons to fire up and engage in something exciting and different. The best part about learning is it is not something to be limited to career goals or crowded classrooms. Rather, learning is a lifelong adventure that can be taken at any stage in life, regardless of age or even a diagnosis.

Lifelong Learning Is Your Brain’s Greatest Companion

There’s a great big world out there just waiting for exploration, and taking on such an adventure makes for a great companion for our hungry brains. The most rewarding thing we can do for our brains is continually seeking out something new or even challenging. Nancy Merz Nordstrom, a lifelong learning guru, views this practice as a vital ingredient for any lifestyle, but especially so for older adults. Nordstrom states, “When you look at the benefits gained from keeping your mind sharp, it’s incredible. Lifelong learning is like a health club for your brain. And an active mind can stimulate physical activity and keep your spirits high. It’s an all-around fantastic tool for better health.”
But what exactly defines lifelong learning? According to Valamis, lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge. It is a practice that can be welcomed into any routine as a way to feed your curiosities, stimulate critical thinking, embrace creativity, and foster your unique interests. It recognizes that, as humans, we have an innate drive to explore, learn and grow, and through lifelong learning, we can improve our quality of life by feeding the ideas that inspire us. This includes enriching subjects and activities like learning a new language, studying a specific topic (like history or philosophy), or developing a new skill (such as playing an instrument).

Lifelong Learning Examples:

Creative Writing

Music Appreciation

Exploring New Artistic Techniques

History, Philosophy & Cultural Classes

An Intense Workout… For Your Brain!

Lifelong Learning Is A Workout For The Brain
By keeping our neurons fired up, lifelong learning offers the greatest health benefits to our brains. In fact, according to some studies, increasing mental stimulation and social interaction are both proven methods for reducing the risks of cognitive decline, adding an extra layer of protection around the brain against the effects of dementiaAdditionally, neurologist Dr. Smita Patel says that cognitive activities can increase the brain’s ability to “re-route” itself in the presence of disease, an occurrence otherwise known as the brain’s neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity, as described by FlintRehab, is the brain’s way of creating new pathways to send and retrieve information after neural connections have been damaged, such as by stroke or the progression of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Although damage to the brain cannot be reversed, neuroplasticity allows the brain to rewire functions to promote new, healthy channels, allowing aging loved ones to retrain their minds, regain lost skills, and maintain independence through repeated practice and experience.

The Opportunities For Lifelong Learning Are Endless!

So, what does this all mean? It means that opportunities for lifelong learning do not fade with age or through the progression of a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia. In fact, it’s just the opposite! As the brain begins to deteriorate, promoting lifelong learning becomes the brain’s greatest defense by encouraging access to new channels of communication that allow for more creative expression, personal reflection, and intellectual stimulation. This is why Oakwood Creative Care has incorporated lifelong learning into our Day Club programs, including our classes that offer music, poetry, creative workshops, and even brain fitness. We do this so that your aging loved ones with cognitive challenges have the opportunity to develop new skills, unmask discoveries, laugh through the process, and engage in a life filled with joy.
A Lifelong Learning Class For Seniors With Dementia
A Lifelong Learning Class For Seniors With Dementia
ASL: A Lifelong Learning Class For Seniors With Dementia

P.S. Did you know Oakwood Creative Care is bringing back the JOY in aging? We believe a diagnosis should not have to define your life. Instead, we have devoted our mission to reigniting hope for caregivers and older adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related challenges. Click the button below to learn more about how we do this through our research-based, cutting-edge, creative care model found at each of our Day Clubs.

Lifelong Learning

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We're a nonprofit organization based in Mesa, Arizona with three senior day club locations (and a fourth on the way) which serve older adults with Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and various other physical or cognitive challenges. Life does not end with a diagnosis. Our members continue to learn new skills, enjoy new discoveries, make friends, laugh, and live a joy-filled life. Our team of dementia experts lead support groups, events, classes, and private sessions with caregivers and families, guiding them on the best methods to care for their loved ones while also caring for themselves.


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