Lifelong learning

11Oct08

My auntie Jane worked all her life in Canada in low skilled jobs. I don’t know if she even had an elementary school education. She had no need to speak English working in a factory with other Chinese speaking workers. Her children or husband took care of household tasks needing English literacy.

Then she had a chance to learn English as an adult learner. There were challenges but she gained confidence in speaking and understanding the television. But her cousin made fun of her attempts to learn a new language at this stage in life.

He is not an advocate of lifelong learning. And now there is a scientific research to support how our brains rewire with new learning. I just finished reading The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (2007). Doidge talks about cases of stroke patients  and people with learning disabilities, and how they are able to learn in new ways thus rewiring neural networks. My explanation is basic, but I found a quote about the advantages of this fairly new development. In an article about lifelong learning,  new neural networks research at the University of Toronto mentioned:

However researchers at the University of Toronto have found learning can not only be good for your life but also for your brain. Learning may actually protect the brain from some of the negative impacts of aging, such as memory loss, by building alternate neural networks absent in less-educated people. The more years you spend learning, the more prevention against memory loss you have.

Personally I have a long way to go before old age. But I started challenging myself  doing crosswords and learning new card games. I already love scrabble. I may even take up music and would love to learn to play the saxophone. By dabbling in these other activities, I am having fun adventures, pushing myself to learn new concepts, and ultimately wiring new neural networks for a healthy brain.

– Brenda

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