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Why it's important you continue lifelong learning into retirement

June 1, 20236 minute read

Continuing lifelong learning into your retirement years improves mental wellbeing, strengthens physical health and helps you forge new social connections.

Henry Ford once said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young." Keeping your brain engaged and active, no matter your age, is about embracing a passion for education and taking opportunities to develop new skills.

It's good for mental wellbeing, it improves physical health and it helps forge new social connections - there's no doubt that it's important you continue lifelong learning into retirement and beyond! In our guide to embracing learning at every stage of life, we will:

  • Discuss what it means to be a lifelong learner;
  • Assess the benefits of lifetime training; and
  • Determine what type of education suits your retirement plan.

Hopefully you'll learn a thing or two along the way as you figure out how to make the most of your retirement lifestyle!

What is lifelong learning?

We can all be considered lifelong learners - once you leave the school gates, you never stop studying! Whether learning to play the guitar or researching a new area of expertise, we take on new competencies and knowledge throughout our lives. A passion for education is the only requirement to graduate as a lifelong learner!

While there is no formal definition for lifelong learning, it refers to an innate drive to continue to learn and develop new skills, often outside of formal education. This doesn't mean that study undertaken through a TAFE course or tertiary institution isn't a part of lifelong learning. Instead, it means education is self-initiated for the sake of personal development and self-fulfilment, rather than any formal requirement to complete a curriculum.

This dedication to self-fulfilled upskilling shouldn't stop when you retire. Continuing education that you are passionate about and taking opportunities to learn new skills can give your time more purpose and meaning. But the many benefits of lifelong learning don't stop there!

The benefits of embracing lifelong learning

Here are some positives to come out of building lifelong learning into your retirement:

Improving self-confidence and other personal qualities

Whether entering a course with like-minded individuals or undertaking your own readings, embracing lifelong learning can give you more confidence in your own knowledge and areas of interest. Additionally, working with others helps you to improve crucial communication skills and your own emotional intelligence - capabilities that carry us through our whole lives.

Strengthening your mental capabilities and wellbeing

Mental inactivity can potentially place you at a higher risk of developing memory loss issues. Consider your brain like a muscle - if you don't use it, it will shrink over time. If you work your brain by learning, whether extending your knowledge about a passion subject or teaching yourself a new skill, it can improve your overall mental wellbeing, as well as memory retention and problem-solving skills.

Meeting new people

Partaking in a course that facilitates lifelong learning places you in a perfect position to make new social connections. Even if you are not very sociable, others in the room undoubtedly have similar interests to you, which often makes it easier to forge new friendships. Meeting new people that are like-minded is important for Australians reaching retirement, as it offers an alternative social outlet to time spent with work colleagues.

Developing new hobbies and interests

It can be intimidating taking up a new hobby after retirement - after all, if you've never done it in your working life, will you even like it? One of the joys of retiring from working is the extra time gained. If you have always wanted to learn a new language, or become an expert with a nine iron, consider every day a chance to embrace a new skill!

These benefits are just the beginning of what you stand to gain when mixing education with well-earned downtime!

Three ways to partake in education as an older adult

Lifelong learning is about building on your desire to gain new skills or expertise, whether in a formal or informal setting. Here are three ways you can continue learning as an older adult, depending on how social you are and your retirement income:

1. Online courses - The internet is a wonderful resource for those who want to learn but may not have budgeted in their retirement income for undertaking a university degree. Online courses are also excellent for those who may be less mobile and want to partake in education from the comfort of their own home. Platforms such as Class Central link users to thousands of free courses on topics from Art to Zoology.

2. University degrees - Many older Australians never had the chance to pursue higher education in their youth - achieving that dream during retirement is the perfect opportunity! ABC's recent report of a 90-year old who recently graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Master's Degree shows you are never too old to learn a new thing! Resources like the Good Universities Guide can help you find a tertiary education institution and a course that fits your lifestyle and passions.

3. Community colleges - For those who want the range of course options and social engagement of a formal course without having to pay university fees, community classes could be the answer. There are schools all over the Sydney metropolitan area (such as Sydney Community College) and Illawarra, with a formal training program or academic curriculum to suit any and all interests!

Keeping engaged with learning will put you in the best place to fully enjoy your retirement!

Three additional tips for maintaining mental sharpness in retirement

Alongside lifelong learning, there are several other things you can do to keep your mind active and healthy during your retirement:

1. Maintain a healthy diet and enjoy regular exercise - Your brain's health (and ability to absorb and process new information) is dependent on your wider physical health. Eating plenty of healthy foods in a balanced diet, drinking lots of water and taking up light exercise (even a walk around the block) will help your brain function no end.

2. Read widely and do brain exercises - Lifelong learning is as much about wanting to keep your brain engaged in between classes as it is about formal education. Reading, whether newspapers, books or magazines, keeps your mind more active than sedentary activities such as watching television. Even swapping out an hour of television a day for an hour of reading will improve your mental capacity. Additionally, brain exercise activities such as Sudoku or training courses, will help you make the most out of your formal learning engagements.

3. Minimise your stress - We've all experienced it in our professional and personal lives - too much stress and we can't think clearly. Minimising stress in your retirement years won't just be good for your physical health. It will also improve your ability to solve problems and focus on tasks to hand. These skills are both essential when you are trying to learn something new.

To learn more about Retirement living and how you can stay healthy, active and social in a friendly community, contact the Anglicare team today.

Anglicare acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original and ongoing custodians of the lands and waters on which we live and work.

Inspired by the gospel of reconciliation in Jesus Christ, Anglicare's vision for reconciliation is a nation in which Australia's First Peoples are restored in dignity, respect, empowerment and opportunity.