Lifelong learning through retirement: what you can do to stay sharp in later life

Lifelong learning is about continuing to develop and learn new skills and is usually self-initiated for your own personal development rather than just to complete a curriculum.

Continuing to learn new things throughout your life is important for your mental wellbeing and physical health. By ensuring you keep your brain engaged and active, you’ll be able to develop new passions and hobbies whilst developing new skills.

The benefits of lifelong learning

Spending time learning or developing new skills can enhance your life so it shouldn’t stop when you retire as there are many benefits of continuing to learn including:

  • Boosting your self-confidence
    By doing a course with like-minded people you could develop your communication skills, team working skills and emotional intelligence. You could learn how to use a tablet, go on a cooking course, learn a new language or improve your maths and English skills – it doesn’t matter what you learn, it’s about doing it for yourself.

  • Developing your skills and finding a new hobby
    One of the best things about retiring is having extra time to explore different hobbies or skills. Use this time to master a skill you’ve always wanted to develop or discover something completely new.

  • Enhancing your mental capabilities
    Keeping your brain active is just as important as keeping your body active. The more you use it, the more it you keep your brain fit, reducing your risk of developing memory loss issues.

  • Meeting new people
    Meeting new people is great to expand your social circle and develop your communication skills.

How do I get on a course as an older adult?

The first thing to decide is what course you’d like to take and look around at the different options. Some things to consider are the type of course, the location and the cost.

  • Online courses
    When you browse the internet you’ll find there is such a vast range of courses online, some free and some you might have to pay for. Online courses are also great for people who might not be able to get out of the house easily but are interested in learning new things.

    Some good places to get started include The Open University, FutureLearn, Udemy, UK Learns, Shaw Academy, or National Careers Service.

    A lot of universities offer free online courses too, including the University of Reading, University of Southampton, University of York, or the University of London.

  • Get a university degree
    Why not go back to university and study for a degree you’ve always wanted – it’s never too late to achieve your dreams!

  • Go to college
    If you want a formal course without the cost of university fees, why not consider going back to college to learn something new. Most colleges offer adult learning with a range of courses and you’ll get the social interaction too.

Additional tips for helping to keep your brain healthy whilst you’re learning

Apart from continuing to learn and develop your skills there are some other things you can do to help keep your brain active and healthy throughout your retirement:

  • Lowering stress
    Everyone has experienced stress at some point in their lives, be it either professionally or personally, and too much stress can stop us from thinking clearly. Helping to minimise your stress is not only good for your physical health, it can also help you to focus and solve problems when you’re trying to learn something new. Find out more about looking after your mental wellbeing in later life.

  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly
    Keeping your brain healthy relies on your physical health including eating a healthy and balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and making sure you exercise regularly.

  • Do brain exercises and keep on reading
    Reading is good for keeping your brain active - you can read newspapers, books or magazines regularly. Additionally activities like Sudokus, crosswords and word searches are great for keeping your mind engaged and can been undertaken in between your course for a bit of downtime.

As you can see, there are a number of benefits to continuing to learn throughout your retirement including making new friends, keeping your brain active and improving your physical health, all of which can help you have a happy retirement.


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