The Powerful Benefits of Lifelong Learning

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
Henry Ford

Since 2004, individuals of all ages have been celebrating Lifelong Learning Week in Hamilton. Hamilton’s Adult Basic Education Association has created an online calendar (101 pages!) that lists free learning opportunities throughout the community during the week of September 15th to 21st. Brantford and Norfolk County are also involved in Lifelong Learning Week activities.

As we know, lifelong learning increases your knowledge and critical thinking skills but what else does learning have to offer? A Canadian Council on Learning report entitled, State of Learning in Canada: Toward a Learning Future found that, “the value and contribution of learning is evident at all stages of life”. The report reveals a series of benefits associated with lifelong learning. Those benefits include improved health and well-being, longer life span, greater likelihood of community and civic engagement, employability, higher earnings, increased creativity and greater self-fulfillment.

According to an article by CARP titled Lifelong learning with CARP, “A George Washington University Medical Center study even found that lifelong learners were less likely to visit a doctor, take medication, experience depression, or suffer from low levels of morale”.

There are physical, social and emotional benefits of lifelong learning, but what about cognitive benefits? An article in Aging Well magazine entitled On the Road Again — A Journey of Lifelong Learning by Barbara Worthington, discusses the findings of the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The study conducted in Chicago over a 5 year span found that, “cognitively active elders, whose average age was 80, were 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who were cognitively inactive”. The study also found that, “frequent cognitive activity during old age was associated with a decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment, a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, as well as a slowed decline in cognitive function”.

Now that we know the powerful benefits of lifelong learning here are just some of the exciting learning opportunities available for older adults:

–       Road Scholar offers educational adventures created by Elderhostel, the not-for-profit organization created in 1975. Some of the most popular types of learning adventures include food & wine, history and culture, intergenerational, photography and walking.

–       The Ontario Third Age Network consists of self-managed older adult (50+) learning groups that provide opportunities to share learning experiences in a wide range of subjects.

–       The Catalist is a national extension of the Third Age Network.

–       Lifelong Learning Mississauga offers informative and affordable lecture series and workshops. This fall’s topics are the English Language and Planet Earth.

–       Routes to Learning Canada is a travel organization for older adult learning adventures.

–       The Academy for Lifelong Learning is based at the University of Toronto campus and provides daytime workshops. The Academy is a centre for intellectually curious adults interested in exploring and understanding the world and meeting others who share their interests.

To enable lifelong learning opportunities for individuals with limited financial resources, the Canada Revenue Agency created the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows individuals to withdraw funds from their Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to finance training or education for themselves or their spouse or common-law partner.

How will you celebrate Lifelong Learning Week this year?



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