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The Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Christian Worstell

by Christian Worstell | Published December 21, 2023 | Reviewed by John Krahnert

It’s never too late to learn a new skill. In fact, research shows that people who learn a new skill or try a new hobby later in life see a significant improvement in their memory and cognitive functioning.

Not all hobbies are created equal, though. According to psychological scientist Denise Clark, “It seems it is not enough just to get out and do something—it is important to get out and do something that is unfamiliar and mentally challenging, and that provides broad stimulation mentally and socially.”

4 Hobbies Seniors Can Learn to Boost Their Mental Health

Below, we list four ways seniors can keep their minds alert and help stave off memory disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

1. Learn Photography

According to a study reported on by the Association for Psychological Science, participants who learned digital photography and Photoshop had the most significant improvement of memory out of any group observed in the study.

You can teach yourself photography basics by reading about the process or by following along to YouTube tutorials. Below are a few online resources to help you get started. 

If you prefer a more personalized and social approach, consider signing up for photography classes at your local university or community college.

2. Learn a New Language

Like photography, learning a new language can help improve brain function. Learning a new language can also:

  • Improve decision-making skills
  • Help you become more perceptive
  • Improve your grammar 

There are numerous online resources and apps that can help you learn a number of languages. Some popular options include:

  • Duolingo
    Duolingo is a free online platform that teaches language lessons through interactive games and makes it easy to learn a new language on the go. Once you download the platform, you can access it from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

  • Living Language 
    Living Language uses techniques originally developed by the U.S. State Department to not only teach you a new language, but help you better retain the information.

  • Memrise 
    Memrise has over 200 languages to choose from and even allows you to create your own courses. Memrise is completely free to download and is available on a wide range of platforms.

  • BBC Languages 
    BBC Languages allows you to choose from 40 languages and provides tools that cater to multiple learning styles.   

3. Learn How to Play an Instrument

If you think you are too old to learn an instrument, think again. According to National Geographic, “Musical training seems to have a beneficial impact at whatever age you start. It contains all the components of a cognitive training program that sometimes are overlooked, and just as we work out our bodies, we should work out our minds." 

There are even some advantages to learning an instrument as an older adult. Even if you don’t realize it, you most likely have an understanding of basic music structures just from your years of listening to music for fun. This basic understanding helps you learn faster and retain what you’ve learned better.

4. Travel

You may think of traveling as an excuse to lie on a beach and do nothing for a week, but traveling can also be an opportunity to learn about other cultures, taste different types of foods and explore new regions. Traveling later in life has even been proven to have physical, social and cognitive benefits for seniors.

Booking a Trip

Booking a trip through a travel agency can be expensive. Online booking sites remove the middleman and enable you to book your trip yourself, without ever leaving your home. Travel sites such as Kayak even allow you to book hotels, flights, rental cars and vacation packages all from one convenient website.

Learn more about traveling on a budget in our Comprehensive Travel Guide for Baby Boomers.


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