Can Lifelong Learning Help As We Age?

Can staying mentally active as we grow older help prevent cognitive and physical decline?

According to the World Health Organization,  active aging is defined as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”   People can stay active throughout their lifespans by participating in social, cultural, economic, spiritual, and civic affairs. That can include paid and volunteer work as well as regular physical exercise.  From the WHO perspective, “health” includes physical, mental and social well-being and encourages older adults to stay as active as possible to extend healthy life expectancy.

But what about education? Although attending school used to be seen as age-based, i.e.,intended to prepare children and adolescents to become adults and begin a career,   that has been largely replaced by the newer idea of lifelong learning.    Although the life-long learning trend is likely to continue as baby boomers age,  actual research showing the benefits of continuing education in older adults is still limited. 

My new Psychology Today blog post looks at an innovative university program for older adults in Madrid and some quasi-experimental research suggesting that education can help prevent cognitive decline.   Click here to read more.


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