Senior Musings March 2011

Posted 03.08.11

Lifelong Learning

BobbiNow that the first baby boomers are hitting sixty-five, there's been increased focus on keeping our brains active along with our bodies.

If you didn't watch the fascinating discussion of the brain on the Charlie Rose show last year, you can find that series at www.pbs.org. Those programs were set up as an informal discussion among experts in various areas of medicine, neurology, and other scientific disciplines, explaining in layman's terms how the brain works.

These researchers agreed that it's essential that we keep all these circuits firing, and the best way to do that is to stimulate both sides of your brain.

Don't be lulled by some of the magazine articles that claim that just doing crossword puzzles or playing bridge will accomplish this, although both are certainly excellent ways to stay sharp.

You have to learn something completely new to give your brain the workout that will help fend off strokes and memory loss.

Some seniors are able to take advantage of the kind of travel that combines learning with adventure and fun. Road Scholar, formerly Elderhostel, organizes close to 8000 educational tours in all 50 states and more than 90 countries. The not-for-profit leader in educational travel since 1975, it hires both local and renowned experts to accompany cultural tours in a wide variety of subjects. Trips are reasonable in cost compared to making your own arrangements for that type of travel. Check it out at: http://www.roadscholar.org/

There are also local options in most areas, at high schools, community colleges, and some universities. Most of these have modest fees and don't require any particular educational background. This is a great opportunity to experiment, taking a class in something you disliked in high school (geometry? woodworking? music?) or explore some completely new, such as astronomy or Japanese brush painting.

In these long winter months, there are options for those who prefer to stay at home.

Want to try your hand at writing? You can take a course on-line. One I can recommend is Grammar for Writers and Editors. There are four lessons, dealing with common problems, with assignments based on material published in periodicals or online. The instructor, Irene Davis, an award-winning writer and editor, gives personal feedback on assignments and tips to improve writing skills. The course is described at: http://www.writers.college.com.

Imagine telling your friends you're taking Introductory Anthropology at Yale! Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn: http://oyc.yale.edu/

Great Courses is a company that offers university-level courses taught by top professors from Harvard, Princeton, and others, on CDs, so you can follow the lectures at your own pace. When they're on sale, prices can be as low as $49.95 for a 12-CD set, and each of the 300 courses they offer go on sale at least once a year. Take a look at www.aboutgreatcourses.com.

My on-line creativity course is popular with people from all walks of life. Although it's aimed at broadening the perspective of writers, one of my recent students was a psychologist who wanted a different way to look at problems. Find a description of Tapping Your Innate Creativity at: http://www.SimonTeakettle.com/tapping.htm

Copyright © 2011 Barbara Florio Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.11