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Learning isn’t only reserved for school; people actually learn in a variety of settings, including professional and social situations, while working on hobbies, and even when completing chores. Individuals also learn differently from one another. Psychology professionals, particularly those who focus on educational psychology, aim to understand the various ways in which people learn, and then use that information to help identify effective instructional strategies for all stages of life.*
As we age, we may learn differently than when we were younger. Studies indicate that brain power tends to peak when people are in their early 20s,† which also tends to be the time when people graduate from college and move on with their career. However, learning does not simply stop when a diploma is in hand.
As the brain ages it naturally tends to change. As a result, people may have difficulty recalling names or words, but the decline does not generally impair one’s daily routine. Still, as the number of Americans diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias increases, adults of all ages are seeking ways to enhance their brain power to fight mental decline.
There are many ways to keep an aging brain active and healthy. Exercise is often touted as a means to improve one’s health and extend life, but it’s also incredibly important to be mentally active. Psychology professionals agree that challenging yourself, even at what some would consider an old age, will help empower and extend your brain functioning.
Think of your brain as a muscle. Similar to muscle memory, the brain can learn how to do certain things and then later recall that information, even when you haven’t done it in awhile. One great example is riding a bike—you just know how to do it. Our brains have a plasticity, or the ability to “change or adapt in response to experience, environment, or behavior,”‡ and if you don’t use it, some say you could lose it.
The idea is to regularly learn and master mentally challenging things that you have never done before. While brain games, word puzzles, and listening to music are popular activities, they tend to be less demanding than what your brain requires. Experts say learning something as intricate and detailed as a new language, photography, or how to play an instrument are great ways to positively impact your brain functioning at any age, but particularly those with aging brains.§
Advancing your education is another way to flex and strengthen your brain function. Older adults who decide to pursue education can get more out of the experience than just a diploma. By finding and learning about topics that pique their interest, they can also reap the benefits of prolonged mental activity. One learning option is online education, which offers so many different degree programs and non-degree options that learners of any age are sure to find subject matter that fuels their brain and their passions.
Lifelong learning has the power to help delay the mental aging process. Older adults looking for a “second act” that simultaneously challenges their brain may wish to consider a career in educational psychology. One step toward this career is earning a master’s in psychology degree online, such as the MS in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Psychology from Walden University, where students study topics such as cognition, motivation, and lifespan development, and directly apply their knowledge to inform effective learning processes.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Psychology. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*American Psychological Association, Educational Psychology Promotes Teaching and Learning, on the internet at www.apa.org/action/science/teaching-learning.
†American Psychological Association, Memory Changes in Older Adults, on the internet at www.apa.org/research/action/memory-changes.aspx.
‡D. Cole, Your Aging Brain Will Be in Better Shape If You've Taken Music Lessons, National Geographic, on the internet at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140103-music-lessons-brain-aging-cognitive-neuroscience.
§M. Solan, Back to School: Learning a New Skill Can Slow Cognitive Aging, Harvard Health Publications, on the internet at www.health.harvard.edu/blog/learning-new-skill-can-slow-cognitive-aging-201604279502.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.