Optimal Aging and Lifelong Learning | K. Rumi Shahzad
As the population of the world and the United States ages, patterns have started to emerge around what optimal aging looks like. As we know, there is no “right path” to aging that works for everyone. However, there are ingredients of success we can observe and learn from. This article highlights those ingredients.
The recognized concepts of human wellness include caring for our physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual well-being. Nourishing these needs by taking a lifelong learning approach is a good starting point to optimal aging – that is, seeking ideas that stimulate and support our wellness needs. Lifelong learners open their senses to a vast array of outlets like music, poetry, dance and philosophy. The key is to dive into learning without allowing it to overwhelm you.
An optimal aging idea that cuts across cultures, religions and geographies is starting the day with an individual practice such as meditation, prayer, reading, movement or playing a musical instrument. These practices lead to a peaceful inner state. For some people, great ways to welcome a new day include deep breathing exercises, morning walks, and prayer.
In the Great Lakes Bay Region, several opportunities are available to lifelong learners. They range from enrolling in some of the 200 classes of Saginaw Valley State University’s Osher Life Long Learning
Institute (OLLI), to participating in the Saginaw and Midland chapters of People to People, an organization founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to promote international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities.
Lifelong learning can be a wonderful way to stimulate intellectual capabilities. Research on Alzheimer’s has shown that a brain-healthy lifestyle may prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms and slow down, or even reverse, deterioration. Lumosity.com is a great website that enables individuals to improve brain health and performance through various exercises. Lumosity founders have worked with researchers from several universities, including Stanford and Johns Hopkins, to create games and exercises that improve core cognitive abilities and enable users to remember more, think faster, and perform better.
Another universal wellness concept is helping our fellow human beings. As the Dalai Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” A simple act of kindness not only connects us with a fellow human being, but also has a multiplier effect that improves our lives and the lives of those around us. So let’s engage in at least one act of impromptu kindness today, and make it a habit to do so each day.