Bloomington / Normal, IL

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Lifelong Learning Why You Should Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!


By Karen Coughlin, Marketing Services Director at Luther Oaks

Lifelong learning is a broad term that refers to learning from birth to adulthood. Now a common term, lifelong learning was once believed to be a waste of time — “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” — as aging adults were thought to not benefit from learning new information because they experienced a loss in brain power (Cohen 2012). Even neurologists were stunned to discover that brain cells do, in fact, regenerate and continue to rewire the brain — a link that is strongly tied to learning. Adult learners have the opportunity to seek out new hobbies and passions, and research shows there are many benefits in doing so.

There are plenty of lifelong learning experiences available for mature adult learners right here in the Bloomington-Normal area. But, in order for such programs to be effective and appeal to mature adult learners, research shows the programs must be “personally meaningful, taught in environments which provide a direct learning experience, allow adults control over all aspects of the learning process, and… not too expensive” (AARP Survey on Lifelong Learning, 2000).

Opportunities in the Bloomington-Normal area include taking a one-time painting class offered at a local art gallery, exploring new cuisine at a cooking class, attending a lecture offered by ISU’s Senior Professionals program or Luther Oaks University, or visiting exhibits at local museums, such as the McLean County Museum of History. These examples are all evidence of the escape from the traditional classroom learning environment to more loosely-structured groups and workshop settings. According to the AARP Survey on Lifelong Learning (2000), a mature adult learner finds a laid-back learning format more attractive than a traditional classroom education experience.

In contrast to the traditional front-end learning model of education, which provides a barrage of information to children from a young age, there is an increased awareness of the benefits of lifelong learning, which encourages adults to learn new skills and challenge previously held beliefs throughout their lifetimes.

Lifelong learning is shown to have powerful benefits:

  • Keeping the mind active and sharp, and helping to improve memory and reduce the risk of dementia
  • Boosting confidence by helping people overcome their fear of trying something new
  • Providing many opportunities to socialize in a variety of settings, which strengthens interpersonal skills

The opportunity for lifelong learning is just one benefit of living in a senior living community. Most communities have a variety of programs for residents to keep their minds and bodies active. Lifelong learning is a rewarding practice and is worth the time invested into each new experience, which just goes to show that “you can — and should — teach an old dog new tricks.”

In an effort to create exciting lifelong learning opportunities for older adults in the Bloomington-Normal area, Luther Oaks has developed Luther Oaks University. The series is held each month at the Illinois State University Alumni Center in Normal. For more information on attending Luther Oaks University lifelong learning experiences, please contact Luther Oaks at 309-557-8000 to RSVP or request a booklet. The schedule of events is also available online at