Never Stop Learning: Staying Curious and Engaged at Any Age

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There's a misconception that once you reach a certain age or complete your formal education, whether it's high school or another form of higher education, that you're "done learning." That couldn't be further from the truth! Not only are every one of us learning new things each day, there are a bounty of opportunities to continue to grow our knowledge and expand our horizons.

Staying curious pays off, too. According to the National Institute on Aging, staying intellectually engaged in meaningful activities and hobbies, along with volunteering, has the potential to improve cognitive function and adaptability, in addition to improving overall enjoyment and quality of life. Knowing these benefits, consider some of these low to no-cost experiences, classes and webinars, so you never have to stop learning.

Audiobooks are a great way to easily indulge in a good story or learn about a new topic. You could listen while going on a walk, during a long drive, or even while catching up on household projects.

Did you know? Many libraries offer free audiobook rentals through smartphone apps such as hoopla and Libby. All you need is a library card to set up your account! Spotify has also now entered the audiobook game, though not all titles are cost-free. So whether you're into historic events, the latest celebrity memoir or a thrilling fictional mystery, audiobooks have you covered.

While we don't mean literally going to an Ivy league school (unless you really want to!), several of them offer online professional and lifelong learning opportunities. Harvard, for example, offers free and low cost (around $30) online courses in subject areas like humanities, business, science, art & design and more. Through Coursera, Yale makes available recordings of actual classroom lectures, along with providing class syllabi, suggested readings, exams, problem sets and lecture transcripts. Many Michigan colleges and universities also have lifelong learning programs worth exploring.

Yes, you read that right. Many Parks and Recreation Departments provide year-round programming that covers more ground beyond just outdoor activities! The Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department offers free rotating classes and events for adults over age 50 in subjects like knitting, health and wellness, a book club and more.

Getting involved in the community is always a good idea, as groups and organizations everywhere are regularly looking for helping hands. Have a specialized skill? Reach out to an organization with a cause you're passionate about and see how you could get involved. Museum docent, citizen scientist and theater usher are all great options. Some of the greatest learning, after all, often happens through conversations with people who have different life experiences and perspectives.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor of West Michigan Woman.

This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sep '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.


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