Community Education Courses Benefit Seniors

Connexeo - 07/12/2018

Learning doesn’t stop when formal education ends. That’s why many jobs and professions have continuing education requirements and community adult education programs are so popular. Whether it’s to acquire new job skills or to take up a new hobby with a significant other, the learning process can continue as long as the brain is functioning.

That’s especially true later in life. In fact, several studies have found that senior citizens who continue to learn can help ward off cognitive decline and help seniors cope with depression and poor self-image, according to an article in Psychology Today.

The thought of retirement may seem like endless vacation, but there’s a reason most vacations last only one or two weeks at most. Much longer, and one will get stir crazy. Older adults need something to stimulate their minds and bodies, and to be around other people to replace the social dynamic they had at work. You’ve heard the jokes about the spouses who dread their partner’s retirement. There’s more than a kernel of truth to them.

Participating in community education courses allows seniors to finally learn the subjects they never had time for in school or during their careers. An author for US News and World Report wrote, “I would love to learn more about reptiles, gold rush history, how to write a novel and how to play the guitar. The beauty is that what I decide to learn is my personal choice.”

There are the social benefits as well. While you may get together for the occasional lunch or drink with your old work buddies, taking some community education courses provides the opportunity to meet new people who share your situation and, obviously, have at least one similar interest. A National Education Association article stated that sociologists have found that such social connections can “increase happiness along with physical and emotional health.”

As mentioned, stemming cognitive decline is a major benefit of lifelong learning. The Rush Memory and Aging Project found that cognitively active seniors in the study were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than those who weren’t as active.

A series of studies summarized by the National Institutes of Health found that lifelong learning help adults develop self-esteem and self-efficacy, identity, purpose and hope, competencies and communication and social integration – all promoting general well-being. These are especially relevant to community education courses, that do not have the pressure associated with “for-credit” classes.

One such study featured interviews with participants ages 64-83 in a community education program in Canada, who believed the weekly classes motivated them to “keep going physically and mentally, providing joy and satisfaction, a sense of self-growth and mastery, and friendships with classmates and teachers.”

From keeping the brain active to making new friends, community education courses provide a host of benefits for senior adults. That, and they can be just plain fun.


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