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Seniors - Go Back to School – QNS.com

Seniors – Go Back to School

As we grow older, it is essential that we not only keep our bodies in good physical shape, but also keep our minds exercised and active. Research is debunking the myth that we lose thousands of brain cells every day. In fact, there is mounting evidence that the brain generates new branches or dendrites when we exercise our minds, particularly when we learn something new.
That is great news for all of us and opens new opportunities to use our brain’s full potential, expand our skills and knowledge, and make our lives fuller and more meaningful. As thousands of students are returning to school this month, I urge you to consider joining them.
You have many options among the dozens of free or low-cost programs around the City. If you are seeking to join a community of your peers where participants are both teachers and students, you might consider the Quest Program affiliated with CCNY and New School’s Institute for Retired Professionals. NYU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is also a community of retired and semi-retired individuals, but instead of peers teaching peers, NYU faculty do the teaching.
If you prefer to mix it up with younger people going back to school for a variety of reasons, continuing education programs at all the City’s universities and colleges offer a broad range of non-credit, professional certificate and credit courses as well as workshops, conferences, events, lectures and even web-based learning. Most have special rates for seniors. Most also welcome seniors as non-matriculating students in degree programs and many allow auditing.
Universities and colleges are not the only places to seek mental stimulation. The City’s Y’s have been offering adult education courses for years, and your local senior center may have just the class you are looking for. So may your Union’s educational services. Book clubs, chess clubs, film groups, writing seminars all offer opportunities to hone your mind while meeting people who share similar passions. The Arts Students League of New York doesn’t require previous art experience.
Consider getting involved in civic matters – you can train to mediate disputes at one of the publicly funded Community Dispute Resolution Centers in the City; learn to be an advocate for seniors at the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged’s Institute for Social Action, or put your life experiences to work as a trained volunteer in the Prejudice Reduction Program of the Community Service Society helping elementary school children develop greater respect for human differences, to name just a few options. In short, opportunities abound to develop new skills, enrich your life, and help others.
I commend the thousands of older New Yorkers who, by their quest for learning, are refuting the view that aging is a time of decline. Instead of winding down, seniors are retooling for another career, pursuing interests they never had time for before, fulfilling postponed dreams and finding new friends to share their discoveries. By stretching their horizons and embracing new ideas these seniors are demonstrating that learning can be – and should be – a lifelong process.
Edwin Mndez-Santiago, LCSW, is the commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging.

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