Learn for Life

As Albert Einstein said, "Once you stop learning, you start dying."

Along with nutrition, exercise, and social connections, lifelong learning is fundamental to healthy aging. Stimulation of our minds and creativity is vital to brain health. In 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, the Alzheimer's Association says, "Hit the books! Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online."

ADS Advisory Council members Marsha Andrews, Ava Frisinger, and Kate Miller met with 8th District Congressman Dave Reichert last month to discuss the growing Age Wave population, how Older Americans Act programs and services help seniors age in place, elder abuse, and the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act (S 843 and HR 1571).

Two additional benefits of lifelong learning are self-fulfillment and social relationships. As we age, our roles change—professionally, for sure, but also within our families. As younger family members need less of an "empty nester's" time, we may find new opportunities to explore old interests and to develop new ones. Quite a few retirees start second careers that require new skills. Volunteer activities often result in learning new skills and making new friends. And continuous learning maintains our ability to cope with change.

Learning takes place in lots of settings—including our natural environment. When we pay attention to Mother Nature, we learn about the world we live in. But it can also take place in a reading chair, at a local coffee shop, at the library, through a focus on the arts, and at your computer. The main requirement is curiosity.

ADS director Maureen Linehan, ADS Advisory Council chair Ava Frisinger, Enumclaw Senior Center director Jobyna Nickum, Vashon Senior Center director Ava Apple, and Burien Senior Program recreation supervisor Kristy Dunn briefed the King County Council’s Health, Housing and Human Services Committee on the Area Plan on Aging on August 18, 2015.

This issue of AgeWise King County touches on some of the opportunities you have to follow those things that you're curious about. In addition, I encourage you to look at Aging and Disability Services webpages that promote healthy aging—The Arts & Healthy Aging, Lifelong Learning & Healthy Aging, and Volunteering & Healthy Aging.

As young folk might say, "#keepmoving #stayconnected." Let's add "#learnforlife."

Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. Ava welcomes input from readers via e-mail (advisorychair@agewisekingcounty.org) as well as applicants for open positions on the council, when they occur. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.

Here is a sample of what Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services members are working on: