Feed Your Passion and Expand Your Thinking

Continuing education during retirement

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A recent television ad says, “There are millions of ways to make the most of your life.” And that is an important sentiment. Retirement can be a productive and inspiring time in your life with activities that can keep you healthy as you age.

The best results require planning, but even the process of planning improves your brain health. The National Institute on Aging defines brain health as “how well a person’s brain
functions across several areas.” Those areas include:

  • Cognitive health – how well you think, learn and remember
  • Motor function – how you initiate and control movement
  • Emotional function – interpreting and responding to emotions
  • Tactile function –feeling and responding to sensations of touch (pressure, pain, temperature)

Making your plan

Is there something that you have always wanted to do but never seemed to find the time? Learn a new language, travel to Europe or try recipes from around the world? Master that iPhone, create a website or start a blog? Run a half-marathon or paddle the length of the Maumee River? Sample the all new restaurants in the Toledo area?

Identify the things that you would love to try, and then build activities into your calendar to accomplish them. Your schedule during retirement is flexible.

The beauty of continuing education during retirement is that it’s yours to mold and expand!

Work the schedule

Your continuing education schedule should reflect your passions and goals while improving your brain health. Creating an actual weekly or monthly schedule will help you commit to assigned activities, while offering you tangible evidence of the value of the continuing education programs in your life. Programs can move you toward attaining brain health goals:

Cognitive health

  • Language classes at the University of Toledo/utoledo.edu or BGSU/bgsu.edu, French at the Alliance Francaise de Toledo /aftoledo.com, or online classes from Babbel /try.babbel.com or Duolingo/duolingo.com.
  • Reading – read everything a particular author has written; stories about potential vacation spots; historical novels. Check with the library /toledolibrary.org about their collections and book clubs.
  • Art classes at the Toledo Museum of Art /toledomuseum.org and studios and galleries throughout the area. Some that typically offer classes include Handmade Toledo/handmadetoledo.com, Board and Brush/boardandbrush.com, Fuller Art House/fullerarthouse.com, Callisto Terra Studio/callistoterra.com, 577 Foundation/577foundation.org, Uncork the Artist/gettooccassion.com and Sunshine Studios/sunshinestudio.org, among others.
  • Introductory computer skills are taught at many area senior centers.

Motor function

  • Exercise helps with motor function, especially strength and balance. Check your local YMCA (ymcatoledo.org) and area gyms for programs, especially those that feature station workouts (that improve brain function). Regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain involved in learning and verbal memory. Exercise can also positively affect your mood, self-esteem, memory and your brain’s ability to focus and concentrate. Strength training and yoga can even decrease depression symptoms.
  • Dancing (dancetoledo.com), especially tap(offbroadwaydancecompany.com) , improves coordination and balance, in addition to being a great workout. n Eye-hand coordination activities, like quilting (quiltfoundry.com), knitting, crocheting or photography exercise your skills and creativity. Local shops, such as Joann Fabrics (stores.joann.com), offer classes in many craft areas.
  • Yoga, tai chi, journaling and relaxation classes all help with balance and strength. Area senior centers have classes catering to older adults.

Emotional function

  • Schedule regular outings – lunches, short trips, etc. – with family and friends. Get together at home or visit restaurants and attractions in new places.
  • Join groups involved in things you like – book clubs, walking, senior centers, etc., for regular meetings.
  • Volunteering. The Area Office on Aging (areaofficeonaging.com) offers all kinds of volunteer opportunities.

Tactile function

  • Cooking classes can refresh your skills or take you around the world. A couple local spots for cooking classes include Foodology (foodologytoledo.com) and The Baker’s Kitchen (thebakerskitchen.net).
  • Get your hands dirty by volunteering in nature (metroparkstoledo.com) or working on an urban farm (toledogrows.org). These activities can open your mind to entirely new worlds while helping you function better as you get older. They can broaden your social circles and make you more physically fit.

Mentally stimulating activities can help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s-related impairment and dementia. But the National Institute on Aging warns that these activities don’t have long lasting effects unless they become habits and part of your routine. So, once you’ve established your continuing education program, stick with it (with adjustments along the way) to maintain your vitality and health.