The following article is a guest post submitted by Karen Weeks. After retirement, Karen was bored and struggled to find a new sense of purpose. She decided to learn a new skill and took a computer course. She learned how to build her website, ElderWellness.net. Now, she tries new things all the time. She believes nothing is off limits to seniors.
If you think that age is a barrier to learning, you’re wrong. According to a study published in the Public Library of Science in 2015, seniors actually have similar rates of learning as their 20-something counterparts, and many older Americans have just as much drive and determination to learn today as ever.
Here are a few ways senior citizens can utilize the power of the internet to acquire a new skill they can show off at their next high school reunion:
Learning a new language. It used to be widely believed that only preschoolers were capable of learning a new or second language. Fortunately, just like the outdated belief that seniors can’t gain new skills, this is completely untrue. Adults, regardless of age, absolutely can learn a new language, though they may not achieve a native accent. There are plenty of online resources that offer both guided and independent learning opportunities. PC Mag list the best language learning software here and suggest a few free learning apps that will help the senior in your life make a decision before committing to a specific tongue.
Learning a musical instrument. Sure, everyone wants to learn how to play the piano or guitar, but go-getting seniors may wish to consider a less obvious instrument. Considering that Alzheimer’s patient almost magically retain long-term memory of music from their youth, it makes sense to learn to play songs from their formative years. A trumpet is a perfect instrument for an older adult. This trumpet buying guide is a good reference for any senior looking to play the trumpet. Another benefit: exposure to music has also been linked with positive physical and mental health.
Learning how to code. Technology remains elusive to many seniors but it doesn’t have to be. The New York Times reports that there are some people who, in fact, learn to code well past their 60th (or even 80th) birthday. Technical knowledge does not have to be acquired to improve one’s professional status, and many seniors find joy in creating online programs, such as graphic birthday cards, for friends and family.
Learning how to paint. Painting is another creative outlet that seniors can learn online. There are a number of free online tutorials as well as guided programs that teach everything from how to mix color to advanced techniques, such as finger painting. That’s not a joke: check out this online video tutorial from finger painting expert Iris Scott. And like music, painting can strengthen a person’s memory while helping them refine their problem-solving skills. Painting also helps with hand dexterity, promotes an optimistic attitude, and nurtures emotional growth.
In addition to online instruction, seniors can turn to the internet to help them find group programs where they can take classes with their closest friends and family. While going this route means following someone else’s schedule, learning in a group environment fosters healthy social relationships and will keep the senior connected to his or her community. Planning scheduled activities will prevent feelings of loneliness and promote independence.
As an added benefit, each of these activities triggers a physical response in the brain. The National Academic Press explains, “Alterations in the brain that occurred during learning seem to make the nerve cells more efficient or powerful.” For seniors, continuing to learn in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond wards off cognitive decline and depression and will help them find new ways to enjoy their Golden Years.