Over the last twenty years, scientists have documented the fact that older adults who are involved in social activities not only enhance their lives, but add years as well.
According to Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed., author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After 50 Years," Being involved in lifelong learning activities provides a way to combat isolation and get that all-important socialization in your after-50 years."
For 78 million Baby Boomers keenly interested in a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle, lifelong learning is proving to be an essential tool in this quest.
The connection between lifelong learning and socialization is very strong. Lifelong learning gives us an opportunity to meet new people, explore new ideas, and engage in lively give and take with people from all walks of life. People become involved in later-life learning as much for the socialization as for the education. In fact, social activities surround lifelong learning programs. They make a wonderful addition to anyone's calendar.
Later-life learners take part in a wide variety of social events; walking and hiking clubs, field trips, book clubs, special interest groups, weekend getaways, theatre trips, theme dinners, card groups, bird clubs and current events groups, to name just a few.
As one Idaho learner says, "Who has time for the old stereotypes of bingo and golf. Lifelong learning has become my tonic of life!"
Here are three easy ways to socialize in your after-50 years.
1. Join a lifelong learning program
These programs are run by and for older adults. Many of the programs are housed under the auspices of a college or university, but not all. Today, more and more programs are being started independent of academia.
Many are being developed at active adult retirement communities and others at continuing care communities. Some are stand-alone programs formed by local residents within a community. All but a very few programs are open to anyone, regardless of previous academic history.
These programs offer a mix of college-level, non-credit courses and social events. A lifelong learning program is all about learning for the sheer joy of learning in a stimulating and fun environment.
2. Take an educational travel program
Imagine the excitement of exploring the historical and cultural treasures of the Tuscan countryside, the stimulation of taking part in a lively discussion about the life and works of Vincent Van Gogh or the thrill that comes from the discovery that the world is your own, private classroom.
This is educational travel; travel that helps us appreciate and understand different cultures, travel that broadens our perspective and teaches us about new ways to measure our own quality of life, travel that brings us in contact with a wide variety of people, and gives us the opportunity to make friends far and near.
3. Engage in meaningful community service
As Doctor Tom Dooley once said, "Dedicate some of your life to others. Your dedication will not be a sacrifice. It will be an exhilarating experience…" Meaningful community service, however, is different for each person. It's all about engaging in whatever endeavor makes you feel complete and useful. It's about whatever activity enriches and stimulates your life.
(Note: Find several local volunteer opportunities here)
But, whatever it means to you, you can be sure that by using your wisdom and experience, you will make new friends, soar to new heights, and deliver even greater impact in whatever project you undertake. Along the way you will find your after-50 years richly enhanced.
Older adults involved in the socialization lifelong learning brings to their lives are as busy as they want to be, taking courses, developing new friendships, helping in the community, going on educational excursions, and just plain having fun.
These activities bring new focus to their lives and open the eyes of society at large about what it means to be an older adult. It doesn't get any better than that!
Nancy Merz Nordstrom is a frequent consultant to news organizations and outlets eager to discuss the redefinition of retirement for the Baby Boomer generation. She blogs at numerous websites and is one of lifelong learning's preeminent experts.
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