Consistent, lifelong learning is becoming ever more important in day-to-day life. Whether you’re learning a new skill for a job or picking up a new passion on the side, people seem to be continually stretching their brains and learning new things.
This is excellent news, and it’s also a wonderful habit for people to practice. As learning becomes an everyday part of people’s lives, they’ll be more likely to continue doing so. This practice becomes increasingly important as we age. After all, the brain is a muscle, and just like the other muscles in our bodies, it needs to be worked regularly.
Regular mental exercise is one of the best ways to keep the mind sharp, nimble, and even decrease the incidence rate of cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as memory loss. While solving puzzles and doing crosswords are great exercises, one of the best ways to help your mind is to learn.
Learn a New Language
Taking a step outside of your comfort zone to learn a new language is one of the best ways to stretch your mind and protect your memory. Studies have found a correlation between being bilingual and delaying a diagnosis related to memory loss. While this doesn’t prove anything, it is encouraging that bilingual people were diagnosed approximately four years later than those who only speak one language.
While bilingualism typically occurs in childhood, adults can certainly work hard to incorporate a second language into their lives. Whether you find a passion during your formal education or fall in love with a new language while traveling the world, there can be all sorts of reasons for wanting to explore a new language. And it’s never too early to start learning, especially if you’re doing it for the memory benefits.
Lifelong Learning is Critical
Research has found that people who had mentally challenging jobs or regularly engaged in their own learning had a later onset of memory loss once they became seniors. Mental exercise throughout a person’s whole life makes a difference in their memory retention.
The sooner you or your loved ones begin to challenge the brain with puzzles and reading or even traditional learning, the better off you will be. People who suddenly start learning new things late in life after not expanding their brains over the years likely won’t see benefits when it comes to delaying or preventing memory loss.
That said, they will likely reap social and emotional rewards from pushing themselves to learn something new, and there is plenty to be gained by that alone. Whether they choose to pursue a new language by learning a few new words each day or spend time working in educational workbooks, seniors can only benefit from incorporating more mental exercise into their daily routines.
Remote Language Learning
It can be difficult for seniors to make their way to a foreign language class, though. Luckily in today’s world, many technological resources can help seniors and young people alike introduce themselves to new languages. There are websites and apps, as well as classic resources like the Rosetta Stone, readily available for eager learners.
For those who do better in a structured setting, many classroom-based settings offer distance learning at an affordable rate. These classes are typically self-paced, but they have more of a structure than working through it on your own. If possible, consider inviting the seniors in your life to learn a new language with you. Not only would it give you a great chance to spend time with them, but you’d also be investing in your own mental fitness.
Learning a new language is a great adventure that never ends. Between the language itself as well as the culture that surrounds it, there’s never a shortage of new things to learn.
If someone you love is beginning to show signs of memory loss, we have information to help answer your questions. Download our Dementia Guide here.