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As we age...

Our brains slow down if we stop learning

The Impact

There’s no singular “must-do” activity for brain health.
Research shows engaging in cognitively stimulating activities of any kind can reduce the risk of brain decline as we age. No evidence shows one activity is more effective than another.

Global Council on Brain Health, 2017

Lifelong learning helps us stay relevant at work.
About 35% of American workers say they lack the education and training they need to get ahead, and 45% report they have pursued extra training to maintain or improve their job skills in the past year.

PEW Research Center, 2016

Lifelong learning unlocks lifelong growth.
Researcher Carol Dweck’s now-famous “growth mindset” is the belief that abilities are learned, not fixed. This belief alone is shown to lower stress and help us perform better.

Harvard Business Review, 2018

The Takeaway

Flex your learning muscles every day.

Advice from Real People

"Lots of my friends have started traveling alone. They say it's so empowering and exciting to tackle unfamiliar situations in new places."

"I started a Facebook group for my friend and me to share articles we find interesting. Its since grown to over 200 people. It's a source of learning for me and helps me see lots of new viewpoints."

"I've always kicked myself for not learning a second language, so I'm using Doulingo on my commute to learn French. I know see I can fit learning into my routine -- and I look forward to it. "

The Research

School and work keep our brains active. When that regular activity goes away, we risk losing brain function. 

“Reducted schedules of brain activity is a main factor that creates a self-reinforcing downward spiral of degraded brain function in older adults. ”

Progress in Brain Research, 2006

Doing new, cognitively demanding activities keeps our brains healthy. 

“Sustained engagement in cognitively demanding novel acitivies enhance memory function in older adulthood.”

Psychological Science, 2013.

Even as we age, it's possible to increase our capacity to learn. 

“Although there is some neural deterioration that occurs with age, the brain has the capacity to increase neural activity and develop neural scaffolding to regulate cognitive function. It's called neuroplasticity.”

Dialogues in Clinical Neauroscience, 2013.

How Does Living 100 Change the Way We Learn?

AARP traveled to six cities across the country to truly understand how Americans feel about the possibility of living longer. We asked about their most hopeful thoughts and largest worries and what they think would make their community an even better place to work, live and play as people are living longer lives. What we heard is that getting older doesn’t mean we stop learning.

In celebration of AARP’s 60th anniversary, we are taking on what may be our toughest challenge yet – supporting the search for a treatment and, ultimately, a cure for dementia. Last year AARP’s Brain Health Fund announced an investment of $60 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund, which invests in research and development of breakthrough treatments for dementia. This move reflects AARP’s ongoing commitment to helping people with dementia and family caregivers. Learn more about our commitment.