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Intellectual Growth in Retirement

There is always an opportunity to learn something new and interesting.

Mimi Marrocco, director of continuing education at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, is a big proponent of lifelong learning—or, as she likes to call it, learning for life. Whether it’s joining a club or listening to a talk, “as long as you’re learning new things, you’re growing.”

Keeping mentally and socially engaged in their communities is just as important for retirees as staying physically active, says Marrocco. The reason is simple. “When we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy—and the brain is a muscle.”

Mimi suggests seniors think of their brains as their upper-upper body. Lifelong learning, she says, keeps the brain agile and fit. “What you don’t want is to treat the final years of your life as being in death’s waiting room,” she says. “You don’t have to stop being who you are and you don’t have to stop learning to become better than who you are.”

A great source of lifelong learning—and a community builder for seniors, Mimi says, are computers. Marge Wood knows that first-hand.

“When we don’t use our muscles they atrophy—and the brain is a muscle”

The 81-year-old was one of the first residents to sign up for a twice-monthly Elder Technology class in Chartwell Classic Oakville’s new computer lab.

Marge already had a computer when she moved from Belleville in November 2011. Her late husband Stan had introduced her to online banking, and Marge wanted to take the class to learn more.

Now Marge has switched to Gmail and learned she will be able to make long-distance calls on her desktop for free once she gets a microphone. This is a big deal, Marge says, because “I have a lot of people to call back in Belleville, a daughter in California and family in Vancouver.”

She’s also keeping copious notes, she laughs, “because at our age we don’t remember everything.”

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