As aging is highly correlated with cognitive decline, researchers continue to be in the quest to improve the quality of life of older adults. With the advancements in technology being maximized for education, information acquisition, and continuous learning, older adults should also be given opportunities to take advantage of online learning resources.
New technologies can help older adults maintain their autonomy and boost their happiness and wellness through opportunities to enrich their social lives, access care and other services, entertain themselves, and continue learning. Research shows that continuing education — whether in a classroom setup or self-directed — can help reduce cognitive decline and improve one’s self-image.
With that said, below are virtual learning resources worth checking out.
Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) is a program started by dedicated volunteers led by Tom Kamber in 2004. Its mission is to help older adults assimilate themselves into the digital age by helping them learn and use technology. In 2013, they launched Senior Planet. Today, Senior Planet operates in 6 US states, offering unique courses and seminars on a wide range of topics, including drumming, holistic wellness, website design, computer basics, and chair yoga, among others. Membership is through an annual donation with no specific amount required.
A program of Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies, OLLI provides adults and older adults opportunities to take part in lectures, workshops, and special events about a vast range of topics. Courses cover interesting topics such as contemporary issues, civic engagement, creative arts, history and government, science and technology, literature, and social sciences. The classes used to be held in Chicago, but when the pandemic hit, classes were moved online. Classes require registration fees, varying according to membership type. Non-members who would like to have a “taste of OLLI” can also attend their webinar for an introduction and overview of the program.
Their ads are all over social media. You or a friend of yours has probably seen a short clip of James Cameron talking about filmmaking, or Gordon Ramsay sharing restaurant recipes you can try at home. Masterclass is a virtual program of almost a hundred courses with experts, professionals, and celebrities as instructors. What’s unique about this is that classes come in 10-minute sessions, making them concise and easily digestible. Rates for classes start at $15/month, billed annually.
Depending on your location, libraries can provide opportunities for community engagement, aside from e-books, audiobooks, and other media. What’s good about libraries is that you can take advantage of them, free of charge. There are libraries that have programs specifically designed for older adults, such as book-by-mail services and easier access to technology. Some even host virtual events such as book readings, art courses, and acoustic nights. It wouldn’t hurt to browse through your local library’s website to find out how they can help.
Learning a new language is a great way for older adults to stay mentally active and sharp. Rosetta Stone’s online learning program entails a technology-driven, innovative approach to language learning. Older adults can attend live tutoring sessions, which provide them with opportunities to socialize and enhance their communication skills. Today, they have a monthly subscription fee of 9.99 USD, paid annually — unlimited languages.
Other Language Apps (free!)
Aside from Rosetta Stone, some of the most popular language learning apps today that are also worth checking out include Duolingo, Anki, and Memrise. These three involve self-directed learning, using flashcard-style and memorization tools. Hellolingo is another free language app, but what separates it from the first three is its web-based program that includes live classes and private tutoring by native speakers.
Virtual Museum and Zoo Tours
When the pandemic hit, museums and zoos started creating virtual content and events for their patrons. Virtual tours have become increasingly popular recently. Older adults, especially when accompanied by a loved one or friend, can find these virtual tours entertaining, relaxing, and educational. The MET in New York, for example, launched MET 360°, which gives an immersive video tour of six galleries. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History also offers free virtual tours, either guided or narrated. The San Diego Zoo offers free, real-time tours of several of its current exhibits, as well.
With the approval and guidance of care providers and physical therapists, older adults can benefit from online fitness training services that will allow them to learn new exercises and workout routines. If they are safe to exercise, they can take advantage of some fitness programs designed for older adults. The YMCA has a variety of fitness courses for older adults, such as tai chi and chair aerobics. Older adults, especially those who are new to working out, can also take advantage of The National Institute on Aging’s resources on safe exercising.