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Do you remember your favorite school teacher or your favorite class? My brain worked nonstop back then, jumping from English essays to physics formulas, deciphering ancient texts in Latin, losing track of time at lunch with friends and rushing back to class, out of breath to get right back to work. There was so much to learn. If you ever feel nostalgic for those years of learning, would you consider going back? All the kids will be doing just that in a few short months, and in all seriousness, it might not be as crazy a thought as it sounds.
Last month we discussed various aspects of cognitive health in relation to some specific brain diseases. Cognitive health refers to being able to think clearly, retain memories, and to continue to learn and process new information. According to Harvard Medical School (HMS), genes influence cognitive decline to a certain degree but so do choices. Like physical exercise is to toning the body, mental exercise keeps mental capabilities strong. The most impactful activities are “those that require you to work beyond what is easy and comfortable,” says HMS.
Reaching beyond “what is easy and comfortable” could mean actually going back to school. Currently the California State University system allows California residents 60 years of age or older to enroll in courses as a regular student for just $2 per course. Many other states also offer programs to senior citizens for free and reduced tuition and various colleges, universities, and tech schools. One specific local program is the ElderCollege at San Francisco State University. For just $55 a semester, anyone over 50 can sit in on any regular university course, with instructor approval and on a space available basis. This program is purely for personal benefit. No record of enrollment, attendance, or grade is recorded. Even so, the ElderCollege provides the opportunity for continued learning and social interactions without the pressure of maintaining a grade through required coursework. If you have time on your hands and a mind that yearns for mental stretching, consider literally going back to school.
There are many options out there. I’ve listed a few specific suggestions, but there are numerous other mentally stimulating and challenging opportunities. If school sounds too intimidating right now, scale it back. Consider smaller commitments: a writing workshop, a sewing class at a craft store, a summer reading challenge at the library, volunteering at a neighborhood organization. A local community college, adult school, or community center is a great place to contact for information on local resources. Become informed on activities in your area, and then choose the option that fits best with your lifestyle. The only wrong choice is to choose nothing. How will you go “back to school” this fall?
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.