September is just around the corner.  It means back to school, but not just for kids. Older adults can take advantage of a variety of lifelong learning opportunities in our community.

Learning at any age is extremely beneficial for the brain. When you learn something new, your brain grows new cells and builds new connections which has proven benefits for problem-solving and memory skills. Learning can help improve cognitive ability and memory function and can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Most of us want to stay educationally active, but we have different expectations and demands than younger learners. Most older adults prefer informal learning settings to traditional classrooms. Older learners are fortunate in that they get to pick the topics they want to learn and typically have time to devote to them.

Here are some fun and easy ways to continue learning throughout the school year:

  • Lifetime Learners Institute (LLI) at Norwalk Community College offers non-credit, educational programs for area residents aged 50 or older. They offer over 40 courses each Fall and Spring, taught by LLI facilitators, as well as daily events during a shorter Winter Session.
  • Consider short-term classes offered through the Senior Program at Mather Center and the Darien Community Association and other organizations all over the community. From Tai Chi, to pickleball, bridge, Spanish, oil painting, and so much more – there’s something for everybody.
  • Get a library card and explore the Darien Library. You know you will find interesting books there, but you’ll also find computers and internet, audio books, movies and a wealth of activities.
  • There are so many intriguing lectures each month in our community. Topics focus on history, science, health issues and more. Subscribe to the At Home In Darien Monthly Calendar of Events and never miss one!
  • Travel offers a wealth of learning opportunities. Organizations like AARP and Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) offer interesting adventures domestic and abroad. Darien Parks and Recreation Department and Away for the Day also provide group excursions to more local places of interest.
  • Hands-on learning is appealing and fun too, so try “learn by doing”.  Consider trading instructional skills with a friend or neighbor. If you’re an expert knitter, teach your craft to a friend in exchange for her teaching you to paint. If you’ve always wanted to learn to fix your own car, ask a neighborhood mechanic to share his skills in exchange for your tutoring in woodworking.
  • Find an educational activity that you can share with a grandchild or other young person. You might be able to tutor a teenager in math or reading and, in return, learn how to gather information from the internet or use a computer word-processing program.
  • Charities and community service organizations can pair educational and service opportunities. Learn about the latest research into fighting cancer when you volunteer to help the local American Cancer Society with a fundraising event. Stay on top of legislative issues facing older adults by participating in AARP’s political action activities.
  • You can take online courses from home on your computer without ever having to leave your house. Coursera and edX both offer free online courses taught by professors at major universities. There is a charge only if you want a formal certificate verifying that you have successfully completed the course requirements.

Learning is not restricted to the young and the benefits of learning for seniors can make a huge difference in mental and cognitive health, social connections and overall happiness. Consider adding education to your activities this fall.

For more information on lifelong learning opportunities, or for answers to any of your questions about aging in place, give At Home In Darien a call at 203.655.2227.