Scientific research from the 1990s now reveals that more than ever before, a challenged, stimulated brain may well be the key to a vibrant later life. As 78 million Baby Boomers prepare to redefine their own retirement, news that staying active and keeping their brains constantly engaged may help stave off mental and physical ailments and diseases has many asking how best to do so. The answer is simple: lifelong or later-life learning.

Lifelong learning is the continued educational experience that utilizes non-credit academic courses, educational travel, and community service and volunteerism to fully engage the brain, heighten physical activity, and maintain healthy social relationships.

Lifelong learning guru Nancy Merz Nordstrom advocates this three-pronged approach as a vital ingredient for the Baby Boomer lifestyle or anyone in their “after-50” years. “When you look at the benefits gained from keeping your mind sharp, it’s incredible. Lifelong learning is like a health club for your brain. And an active mind can stimulate physical activity and keep your spirits high. It’s an all-around fantastic tool for better health.” Scientific experts agree. According to Paul Nussbaum, Ph.D., Clinical Neuropsychologist & International Consultant on Aging and Health Promotion, "In Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years," Nancy Merz Nordstrom has correctly championed lifelong learning as a proactive lifestyle for overall personal development and a primary factor for brain health!"

Courtesy of her groundbreaking book, “Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years” published by Sentient Publications (ISBN: 1-59181-047-7) Nordstrom offers the Top Ten Benefits of Lifelong Learning.

10. Lifelong learning helps fully develop natural abilities.

“We all have innate natural abilities,” says Nordstrom. “Some of which might not be readily apparent. Once we’re no longer working full time, we have the opportunity to fully explore and develop these abilities.”

9. Lifelong learning opens the mind.

An integral part of lifelong learning is the free exchange of ideas and viewpoints among older learners. Says Nordstrom, “There’s nothing like listening to or taking part in stimulating discussions to help us see the other side of an issue. That give-and-take opens our minds and brings us to a whole new level of enlightenment.”

8. Lifelong learning creates a curious, hungry mind.

The more older learners discover about history, current events, politics, or the culture of other countries, the more they want to learn. According to Nordstrom, “There’s a big world out there just waiting for our exploration. Our drive and desire to learn fuels itself and we keep going, constantly looking for more to feed our hungry minds.”

7. Lifelong learning increases our wisdom.

“Lifelong learning enables us to put our lives in perspective,” says Nordstrom. “It increases our understanding of the whys and the whats of previous successes and failures, and it helps us understand ourselves better. We more fully develop the wisdom that can come with later life.”

6. Lifelong learning makes the world a better place.

Through the community service aspect of lifelong learning, older learners can give back to their communities and to the world. “We’ve spent 30, 40 or more years interacting with the world,” says Nordstrom. “What we’ve learned during that time can be translated into real value for the betterment of society. Our wisdom, insight – it’s all of tangible benefit to the world around us.”

5. Lifelong learning helps us adapt to change.

Society is in a state of constant flux. Often as we age we might feel like the proverbial “old dog that can’t learn new tricks.” “Not true at all,” says Nordstrom. “Lifelong learning enables us to keep up with society’s changes - especially the technological ones. A learning environment with our peers not only makes it possible to stay abreast of change, it also makes it fun.”

4. Lifelong learning helps us find meaning in our lives.

“Sometimes it’s difficult looking back on our lives,” says Nordstrom. “But lifelong learning gives us the benefit of real perspective and enables us to find true meaning in the hills and valleys of our past.”

3. Lifelong learning keeps us involved as active contributors to society.

No longer content to sit in a rocker on the porch wiling away the hours, today’s retirees and Baby Boomers about to retire want and demand more from their later years. “We’re out and about,” says Nordstrom. “We’re taking part in educational programs, traveling all over the world, and offering our expertise to society through meaningful community involvement. We’re not a strain on society; we’re an incredible asset.”

2. Lifelong learning helps us make new friends and establish valuable relationships.

No one enjoys loneliness. And through lifelong learning, older adults are meeting new people, forging friendships and relationships with others, and enjoying an active social life. “Lifelong learning is a brilliant way to keep in touch with people, meet new friends, and enjoy life surrounded by the company of folks who are truly embracing the excitement of our later years.”

1. Lifelong learning leads to an enriching life of self-fulfillment.

According to one lifelong learner from New York, “We base everything on the belief that our capacity to learn and grow does not decrease as our years increase.” Concludes Nordstrom, “Through academic learning, educational adventure travel and our renewed sense of volunteerism, we expand our awareness, embrace self-fulfillment, and truly create an exciting multi-dimensional life. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

For more information on lifelong learning for older adults please visit

"Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years," can be purchased at

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed., is the author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years, published by Sentient Publications in Boulder, Colorado.

Learning Later, Living Greater introduces readers to the ideas and benefits of later-life learning. It challenges people to become involved in meaningful new avenues of productivity: learning for the sheer joy of learning something new, educational travel, volunteerism, civic action, and more. It shows them how to stay mentally and spiritually young. Learning Later, Living Greater is the guidebook for transforming the after-work years into a richly satisfying period of personal growth and social involvement.

Merz Nordstrom also directs the Elderhostel Institute Network for Elderhostel, Inc., North America's largest educational travel organization for older adults. She offers counseling to new start-up programs, provides resources and facilitates communication among more than 380 Lifelong Learning programs across the U.S. and Canada, and develops links between these programs and similar programs in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. She has also worked closely with developers establishing lifelong learning programs in Japan.

Nancy blogs and writes columns for several online sites that focus on adults over the age of 50. These sites include - and She maintains a web site at that provides information for the general public.

Merz Nordstrom has been interviewed extensively by the media about the learning in retirement movement. Articles have appeared in many newspapers and periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. She has done numerous radio interviews, local TV shows, and was a guest on the CNN Financial News TV show "Your Money."

A dedicated lifelong learner, Nancy returned to school after the unexpected death of her first husband, and at age 53, earned a M.Ed. in Adult Education. As a later-life student she became aware of the opportunities and challenges facing older adults, and has dedicated herself to the belief that lifelong learning is both empowering and life-affirming, regardless of age.