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Lifelong learning keeps the mind fresh
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Lifelong learning keeps the mind fresh

MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors, is coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, and brings together leaders from Greater MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical eldercare issue. This month’s column on aging and the arts is presented by JCC MetroWest, which serves as a vital resource center for community residents from early childhood through older adults including those with special needs.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”

Lifelong learning opens new worlds for those following retirement. New brain connections are built through learning throughout the life span. These connections can help with problem solving abilities as well as memory.

Not all of us look back on our school days with fondness; many tend to remember football games, friendships, and social activities with more acuity than classes or studies. Learning after retirement provides seniors with many benefits including exercising mental facilities, the opportunity to learn new skills, increased knowledge, and the prospect of pursuing a subject matter in-depth, something there may not have been time for during our days at school or careers. (There is also a certain freedom in learning without the stress and anxiety of grades and exams.)

Many seniors view lifelong learning as the antidote to retirement, a new beginning that combines freedom of choice with endless possibilities. Most seniors plan on remaining active in their retirement, and learning on any level can ensure that folks remain cognitively and socially connected. Some find this a time to pursue a new interest by taking a college course or perhaps a series of lectures or seminars is their style, while some choose to take up a new hobby. Whatever the level of commitment, the benefits remain the same.

There are many social benefits to lifelong learning as well. It is an opportunity to meet and engage with people who share interests, eliminating loneliness and social isolation. Self -confidence is also enhanced through learning and contact with others with common goals.

There are numerous opportunities in our metropolitan, culturally diverse area. Many colleges and universities offer discounts for seniors and most will offer the opportunity to audit classes. Local adult schools offer learning options, from computers to cooking to ballroom dancing, etc. Your public library is a valuable resource, as many hold lectures and seminars on a variety of topics, usually free of charge.

Your local Jewish community also offers myriad of opportunities. Many synagogues have thriving adult education programs that are often free to members or at a minimal cost. Visit your federation’s website at jfedgmw.org/calendar for a list of upcoming events.

Jewish Community Centers and Ys are also havens of learning. For those looking to broaden their Jewish knowledge, the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning is one option. A project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Melton is an inspiring and empowering adult learning experience. Classes integrate Jewish history, law, language, practices, and ideas through direct study of primary sources, critical and reflective analysis, and group interaction. Classes meet once a week for 30 weeks over a two-year period and are taught by knowledgeable and experienced adult educators. For more information, contact rlillianthal@jccmetrowest.org.

At JCC MetroWest, senior learners are stimulated by its Life Long Learning series. The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section and JCC MetroWest offer many informative programs in both a fall semester and spring semester in everything from literature, the arts, history, entertainment, current world events, and more, taught by college professors, Life Long Learning offers all of the benefits of a college course without the time or financial constraints. Classes meet one, two, or three times, at a minimal cost to members. For more information contact jbramnick@jccmetrowest.org.

Opportunities for learning abound. Whether in a structured classroom environment or a more casual setting, the benefits of ongoing education are yours to reap!

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