Learning Something New Could Boost Your Brain, Bank Balance

Both bodies and brains need exercise to stay fit, and it’s especially important for seniors when it comes to remaining active and engaged as they age. While having a leisurely lunch with friends or successfully mastering your morning crossword puzzle has its benefits, certain activities are more effective than others. And some can even pad your bank account.

Research cited by the Association for Psychological Science has found that seniors who learned completely new skills, such as digital photography or quilting, in socially interactive settings showed the greatest gains in cognitive functioning. That’s true even when compared with other seniors who had been assigned to participate in purely social activities or engage in more familiar activities at home, such as completing word puzzles or listening to classical music.

Get Together and Learn Something New

Since it makes sense to combine social stimulation with mastering mentally-challenging tasks, why not sign up for an online or in-person class with a group of friends? For example, you can enroll as a group in a photography, quilting, or knitting class at a local store or community college, and schedule social events where you can sharpen your new skills.

Want to be more active? Have your group look into a sports league or try a new physical activity together. Things like golf, bowling, volleyball or tennis are great options for larger groups. You get to engage with one another and get moving. If big groups aren’t your thing, ask a friend or two to join you for yoga or tai chi classes. These practices can promote physical and mental engagement as you focus on breath and movement. Not sure where to find a class? If you’re a Medicare Advantage member, you likely have access to a Silver Sneakers-affiliated fitness center that offers classes specifically for seniors. Before paying more than you should, see what your plan covers.

Whatever you choose to do, making a concerted effort to learn a new skill challenges your brain, helps boost your confidence and potentially opens the door to a whole new chapter in your life.

Maybe Make It More Than a Hobby

If you’ve mastered a new craft, such as woodworking, knitting or quilting, you could consider marketing your wares online. E-commerce websites including eBay, Etsy, and Handmade at Amazon have made setting up an online store relatively easy for small sellers. Etsy alone hosted 1.9 million active sellers who brought in $2.84 billion in gross merchandise sales in 2016.

Alternatively, if you’ve got the savvy, take on the task of setting up your own small business site. There are several tech tools, such as Squarespace, WordPress, Weebly and Wix, that allow users to create customized sites for free or with a relatively modest investment. Setting up your own site might encourage you to master a whole new set of mentally-challenging skills.     

Do Your Homework

Seniors who decide to parlay their new passion into a paycheck should research the financial implications of taking in extra income or going back to work. Depending on how much you bring in, earning income could impact the retirement benefits you recieve from your previous employer or affect government payments such as Social Security. Organizations including AARP offer numerous resources for seniors still in the workforce or those thinking about returning to work after retirement. 

Whether you learn something new simply for the brain boost or use your newly-acquired skills to build up your bank account, taking on fresh challenges with friends is bound to benefit body, mind, and soul for years to come.