← Back to Blog

What’s the Secret to Feeling Young? Lifelong Learning.

Seniors learning and reading in a library.

“The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning, you’re not old.” – Rosalyn S. Yalow, American physicist

Does there ever come a point in life where you know it all? Not if you believe in lifelong learning. There are several examples of now-famous people who discovered their true passion later in life, proving that age truly is just a number. Here are a few names you’re sure to recognize:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first “Little House” book at 65.
  • Grandma Moses and Grandma Layton started their artistic careers at 78 and 68.
  • Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence at 70 and continued as an elder statesman of the new United States until he was 85.
  • Peter Mark Roget published his classic thesaurus at 73 and continued editing later editions until he was 90.

Now that you’re free of the day-to-day obligations of your career and raising a family, this is a great time to pursue your interests. Lifelong learning could be something structured as part of a formal ongoing education program, or it could be integrated into your life simply by being curious and seeing where your interests take you.

What are the benefits of lifelong learning for seniors?

While there may not be a fountain of youth, if you’re looking for how to stay young, these benefits of lifelong learning for seniors might hold the answer:
Socialization: As we grow older, loneliness can become a big health risk factor that can have a negative impact on your overall health and wellness. Seeking out learning opportunities naturally brings us into contact with other people, where we have a chance to both learn and discuss our new discoveries with others. It’s also a great way to surround yourself with people of all ages who share your interests and goals.
Healthier brains: The 2012 Rush Memory and Aging Project, conducted in Chicago with more than 1,200 older adults, showed the benefits of staying mentally active. The study showed how increased cognitive activity in older adults slowed their mental decline in cognitive function and decreased their risk of mild memory loss. Pursuing lifelong learning helps you stay mentally sharp; it’s also critical to your emotional health as you get older.
Healthier bodies: A study by the University of Sussex in England found that reading for as little as six minutes lowered the study participants’ stress levels, slowing their heart rates and easing tension in their muscles. And lower stress has wide-ranging benefits for your cardiovascular health, decreasing blood pressure and reducing the risk of a stroke or heart attack, boosting immunity, and lowering levels of depression.
Happiness: Being fully engaged in learning something new has been found to provide satisfaction and happiness. However, to get these benefits, the tasks must be challenging. Learning how to perform a difficult task can produce a boost in health and happiness.

How to pursue your interests.

Once you understand the benefits of being a lifelong learner, how do you get started? Here are a few suggestions:
Specialized programs: The communities of Presbyterian Homes are located in college towns or near colleges, and some even have relationships to provide continuing education for older adults and lifelong learning programs. Lake Forest Place offers drawing and music classes through Lake Forest College. Westminster Place offers art and improv classes through Northwestern University Continuing Education, and also has a Learning in Retirement Series. The Moorings features lectures and current event discussions, along with art and jewelry-making classes and more.
Hobbies and interests: You can receive the same social, cognitive, health and happiness benefits by taking up a stimulating hobby like quilting, painting or digital photography. You can also learn a new skill — like how to play an instrument — or a new language. And with remote learning and internet classes, there are more ways to learn than ever before … and you can pursue them all without leaving home.
A community of friends: One way to find support is by surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals and a common outlook on life. By becoming part of a senior living community, you’re likely to find neighbors who inspire you or share your interests. It’s also a great way to socialize. Plus, communities have planned events, activities, classes and outings … all you have to do is be curious and show up.

Learn more about our communities.

At Presbyterian Homes, we believe you should never stop learning, because life never stops teaching. That’s why our communities focus on providing lifelong learning opportunities to help keep you engaged and growing. If you’d like to learn more, use the contact form on this page.