If you’re over 50 and have been thinking of returning to school keep thinking – it’s great exercise for your brain. In fact, research shows that every time you learn something new your brain increases its neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to grow and respond – as well as its dopamine – “feel good” hormones. In fact, the more you learn, the more your brain wants to learn and prompts you to give it more. It also keeps responding to new information – at any age.
Learning new information – whether it’s how to play an instrument, learning a new language, or a whole new subject that going back to school would involve – is actually addicting to your brain. It actually makes your brain “happy” to learn new information. It also helps your mental state in a process called “self-actualization” by giving you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment – something that over 50 year-olds reinventing themselves can use to help diminish depression and help them re-invest in their careers, or life in general.
But a sense of accomplishing something is not the only benefit that learning new information – at any age – helps with. Energizing your brain also helps decrease stress hormone cortisol, boost immune system function, and get more efficient sleep.
Researchers used to think that your brain grew fixed as you got older. But new research shows that what keeps your brain flexible as you get older is learning. So, contrary to that old adage – “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – you’re never too old to learn anything. Just ask 90-year-old Wally Taibleson who recently collected his fourth college degree from California State University system. Commented Taibleson on learning: “Any time you can devote to improving your mind and increasing your learning, is valuable for you as well as those you’re associated with.”