Lifelong Learning: Spending Your Free Time During Retirement

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People who have left the labor force after working for decades often find themselves bored. The sudden wealth of excess time should be an opportunity for retirees to enjoy the so-called fruits of their labor. When people talk about retirement, images of older adults jet-setting across the world immediately come to mind. However, in reality, many retirees experience stress, anxiety, and depression.

Initially, escaping the long commutes and workplace politics provides relief. Eventually, the lack of a structured daily routine and meaningful activity takes a toll. Retirement stops being a vacation and starts becoming a burden. About one-third of them, according to a study from 2016, end up going back to work.

Post-work Schooling

Many people go to school with the goal of finding high-paying employment one day. However, there are other, better, reasons why someone, especially a retiree, should pursue further education.

Learning is a lifelong activity. One does not stop learning as soon as they graduate from university because that means their skills and their perception of the world around them stagnates. There are different ways to continue learning as an adult. Informal learning occurs outside of educational institutions and corporate training. It includes reading a book or an article, viewing videos, participating in forums and chat, and coaching sessions. Its opposite, formal learning, occurs within the classroom.

Although most older adults choose informal methods of learning, more seniors are readily going back to school. In fact, according to research, about 38 percent of all undergraduates across the United States are considered to be “adult learners,” students who are above the age of 25. The number is expected to grow by 21 percent in 2022.

There is an excellent desire for adults to continue learning in a formal setting. A national survey conducted by Champlain College Online, which focuses on adult education, found that 60 percent of all American adults from ages 23 to 55 without a bachelor’s degree have considered going back to school. However, factors such as the cost of university and debt were major cons.

Here are the benefits of lifelong learning for older adults.

Brain Health

Learning in your adulthood exercises your brain and challenges your cognitive abilities. As a result, in spite of time and degradation caused by aging, your mind remains sharp. It is pretty well-known that, with age, a person’s cognitive abilities decline. The parts of the brain responsible for thinking, retaining and recalling information, and making decisions deteriorate.

However, as you learn, your brain generates new neurons and connections, which are essential for cognitive health. There is even evidence that learning can delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Better Overall Health

Learning might be the secret to living a longer and more fulfilling life. One research suggests that spending a year pursuing formal education adds more time into your lifetime.

It turns out, by being better educated, you likely will adopt habits and behaviors that can prevent illnesses and prolong your life. You eat healthier, exercise more often, sleep better, and stay away from vices. These factors contribute toward overall better health.

Opportunities for Socialization
elderly socializing in a living room

Many seniors are lonely and socially isolated. For most of them, their children are all grown up and have their own families to tend to. The only interaction that they most often have happens at work. So, when they retire, they have fewer opportunities to speak to and create connections with other people.

Unless they decide to settle in retirement communities, where they are surrounded by other older adults, there are rare chances for them to live rich social lives. However, those who live alone and in their own home become solitary. Older adults should consider discussing their current situation with an advisor specializing in senior living to see if staying put or moving to a facility is right for them.

Therefore, going back to school as an adult learner gives seniors a chance to interact with and gain friends.

Gaining a Sense of Fulfillment

Throughout your life, you are working toward a goal. When you were a student, the mission was to graduate and find a good-paying job. As an employed adult, the desire was to gain a promotion and climb the corporate ladder. Retirees lose direction because they stop working for something.

Learning can give them a renewed purpose in life. Studying opens the mind to new knowledge and experiences. Although challenging, going back to school makes you feel fulfilled.

Seniors are at risk of having negative thoughts and emotions as they leave the workforce and become retirees. The endless vacation loses its luster very quickly, making older adults feel bored and uninspired. Going back to school to learn about a new trade or master an old interest is a great way to spend your retirement years.