Research shows that a challenged, stimulated brain may well be the key to a vibrant later life.

As 78 million Baby Boomers prepare to redefine their own retirement, news that staying active and keeping their brains constantly engaged may help stave off mental and physical ailments and diseases has many asking how best to do so. The answer is simple: Lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning is the continued learning over one’s lifetime. It can be educational experience that utilizes non-credit academic courses, educational travel, or community service and volunteerism to fully engage the brain.

Humans, like plants, are meant to grow. Physically — yes; emotional, spiritual and intellectual growth are also keys to a fulfilled life. Lifelong learning is like a health club for your brain.

The habit of continuous learning will keep you feeling young. It will help keep your mind sharp. And, lifelong learning helps us make new friends and establish valuable relationships. Lifelong learning keeps us involved and active in the community. Lifelong learning can be a source of fun and friendship; and lifelong learning leads to an enriching life of self-fulfillment.

Whether you take classes to learn a bit more about a lot of things or learn a lot about a few things, I encourage you to take a class about something that interests you. Lifelong learning is an essential element of an age-friendly community where older adults and their families thrive.

The Dale Association is proud to offer lifelong learning opportunities through University Express, which allows seniors to pursue new interests, expand intellectual horizons and enrich their lives.

An upcoming current affairs class that is being offered is “Threats to the Great Lakes Today.” The Great Lakes contain one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water supply and are one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems on earth. Although the lakes are significantly cleaner today than they were during the era of heavy industry, the health of our lakes is threatened by problems such as climate change, untreated sewage and invasive species. What is the impact of these threats and how can they be mitigated? Instructor Dave Rosenthal, managing editor of Great Lakes Today, on WBFO, will present information at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario St., on Wednesday, June 6 at 10 a.m. Call 433-1886 to register.

You may also be interested in attending “Recipe for Positive Emotional and Mental Health.” Maintaining our emotional and mental health is just as important as maintaining our physical health, but something many of us neglect. When we are in a place of emotional and mental well-being, we experience optimal functioning, allowing us to experience the fullness of life and better cope with the challenges life presents. We’ll discuss what defines emotional and mental health, and how to improve or maintain emotional and mental health. The instructor will be Melanie Washington, behavioral health clinical coordinator for BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. The time and date of this class is 10 a.m. June 13. Call 433-1886 to register.

I hope you will enjoy learning new things and grow from those new experiences.

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a Lockport-based non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call (716) 433-1937 or visit www.daleassociation.com.

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