Keeping the mind active as one grows older is a well-known tactic to battle the onset of cognitive aging and dementia. The old “use it or lose it'” saying turns out to be pretty accurate when we look at aging brains. Rachel Wu, a psychology professor at University of California, Riverside has proposed that we can dramatically increase our cognitive health as adults if we continue to learn new skills the way we did as children.
It is well known that aging adults should always continue to keep their minds and bodies active, but some of these activities may require learning a new skill. Just as some of us felt as children, learning a new skill can be intimidating, especially as adults. When we reach the time in our lives where we live in a Denver retirement community, we can find ourselves at a standstill when finding new interests. Some scientists have said that to learn more and to increase our cognitive ability, we should take some advice from the learning experts, children!
“We argue that across your lifespan, you go from ‘broad learning’ (learning many skills as an infant or child) to ‘specialized learning,’ (becoming an expert in a specific area) when you begin working,” Wu explains.
Wu defines “board learning” across six different factors: (a) open-minded input-driven learning or learning new skills outside of one’s comfort zone, (b) individualized scaffolding or learning under the direction of a teacher or mentor, (c) growth mindset, understanding that ability takes effort and practice, (d) operating in a forgiving environment, (e) serious commitment to learning, and (f) learning multiple skills simultaneously.
“When you look across the lifespan from infancy, it seems likely that the decline of broad learning has a causal role in cognitive aging. But, if adults were to engage in broad learning via the six factors that we provide (similar to those from early childhood experiences), aging adults could expand cognitive functioning beyond currently known limits,” Wu said.