You're never too old to learn...for free

We all know that the quality of our lives is vital if we want to stay happy and fulfilled and really enjoy being older as much as we enjoyed our lives when we were younger. That’s vital isn’t it? Part of that satisfaction and fulfilment can come from education, something that we have time to enjoy and appreciate while we follow a passion and stay curious about the world around us.

Scientific research shows learning a second language can have a positive effect on the brain, even if it is taken up in adulthood, a University of Edinburgh study suggests. Researchers found that reading, verbal fluency and intelligence were improved in a study of 262 people tested either aged 11 or in their seventies. A previous study suggested that being bilingual could delay the onset of dementia by several years.

The study published in Annals of Neurology showed that more than ever before, a challenged, stimulated brain may well be the key to a vibrant later life.

Baby boomers are redefining retirement, news that staying active and keeping their brains constantly engaged may help stave off mental and physical diseases makes us want to rediscover learning. Learning something new could be the key to enriching your life, and the great news is much of it is free…or very affordable.

Ad. Article continues below.

But the benefits aren’t just physiological. Getting out and learning something, anything, gives us self esteem and restores our confidence in ourselves to pick up new ideas and use them – it’s not just the grandchildren who can use the computer, grandparents can and they do it well. Your grandchildren will benefit, they’ll see you valuing education and they will too.

So how can you get involved and what can you learn? The number of courses available and the educational institutions and clubs that are willing to let you have access to their courses for free (or a nominal fee) are many and varied, and the quality of the education available is world class.

It’s not just universities and colleges that offer their services.  Here are a few suggestions that may get you started.

Toastmasters clubs – Free. Toastmasters offer confidence building, communication and leadership skills. A great way to socialise too.

Duolingo  – Free. You can learn languages for free and it’s a really easy site to use. So if you want to speak French, Spanish or any number of other languages then you can do it very easily using a smart phone app.

Ad. Article continues below.

Curtin University  – Free. Curtin offers courses and believes in ensuring that education is accessible to all. They offer Massive Open Online Courses (also known as MOOCs) that allow anyone to complete short courses on a variety of topics online for free.  You could give Astronomy: Discovering the universe a go!

Coursera – Free. Coursera provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organisations they offer courses for anyone to take, for free. How do you fancy Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, you can study with the prestigious Duke University in the US  or an Introduction to Finance at Michigan University. Or you could have a go at Social Psychology at the Wesleyan University. If you like the idea of a more classic course, how about Roman Architecture at Yale

U3A is almost free with course fees of around $25. The U3A Online is the world-first virtual University of the Third Age delivering online learning via the Internet. All that’s needed to study online is access to a computer with an Internet connection – and some basic computing skills. U3A Online offers many other useful resources for older people, especially those who are geographically, physically or socially isolated.

And last but not least your local library has all sorts of learning support and if you don’t have a computer you can use theirs!

What are you learning, are you on any courses or have you been? What did you study and what would you love to learn? Did learning something new change your life or introduce you to new friends?