Coming of Age: Bay Area Says Lifelong Learning is the Key to Good Brain Health

Member testimony and advice from U.C. Berkeley offers strong support for continuing education and community engagement as aids to cognitive advancement in seniors.

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Volunteer Center San Francisco

Volunteer Center San Francisco

Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives through continuing education, career or physical activity can cumulatively produce a positive effect seen to ward off cognitive decline.

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) August 18, 2014

Coming of Age: Bay Area recently announced that recent statements regarding brain health in seniors by U.C. Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) finds strong anecdotal support among its members. Experts now believe that brain fitness – stimulating the brain with activity that has meaning and consequence – is real and can prevent cognitive loss. Coming of Age: Bay Area members report feeling sharper the more they take in new information and apply it through volunteering or other forms of community engagement.

"Current theory holds that the brain is able to remap neural pathways in response to new experiences —an ability known as neuroplasticity," says Susan Hoffman, director of the U.C. Berkeley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a year-round program of non-graded courses, lectures and special events for those 50 and older. "Research has shown that changes associated with learning occur mostly between neurons as new connections are formed. Feeding the brain a steady diet of new experiences may help protect it from deterioration."

Evidence exists that the interruption of regular social engagement brought on by retirement can have negative health effects.

“Traditional retirement — often meaning withdrawal, disengagement and loss of purpose — is bad for your health,” said Paul Irving, Milken Institute president. “We need to help people repurpose and reposition themselves through lifelong learning, training programs, policy change and confrontation of bias.”

On the other hand, education and other forms of positive engagement finds strong advocacy among the neuroscience community.

"Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives through continuing education, career or physical activity can cumulatively produce a positive effect seen to ward off cognitive decline," said Dr. Yaakov Stern, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, at Columbia University.

Coming of Age: Bay Area has gathered stories — from members like Dee Caliman, Ed Schultz and others that have contributed a dozen or more volunteer hours — supporting research associating mentally and physically challenging activity with increased brain health. Caliman indicates that her work volunteering at a child development center made her “feel better, more physically fit and mentally active.” Schultz, a math tutor, gained “a sense of self-confidence and pride from volunteering; it's stimulating, rewarding and a lot of fun!”

About the company:
Coming of Age: Bay Area celebrates the ability of all people age 50+ to continue to grow, transform their communities, and become a force for public good. The organization offers volunteer opportunities, workshops, educational events and one-on-one coaching. It is sponsored by Northern California Presbyterian Homes and Services (NCPHS) with additional funding provided by the Corporation for National & Community Service/RSVP Grant, other community grants and in partnership with KQED. For more information, please visit or


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