Many people associate age with a decline in learning and cognitive abilities, but not Alan Larimer, a retired orthopedic surgeon who is now auditing history classes at Denison University in Ohio. He knows he sticks out in classes filled with 20-somethings and doesn't get any credit, but likes the way the class discussions, assigned books and papers give him "something to chew over," he told the Newark Advocate.
Larimer may be the only senior citizen in his classes, but he's not the only one seeking out more education in his golden years, the news outlet reports. The state of Ohio offers Program 60, which allows older adults to audit classes for free at public four-year universities and two-year technical colleges. When interest is there, space is available and the professor approves, senior citizens have the opportunity to explore a vast array of intellectual pursuits.
"They've redeployed resources to meet the needs of older citizens," Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, told the news source.
Larimer appreciates it, saying his classes allow him to use his brain in new and familiar ways.
"You find parts of your brain start lighting up that you haven't used in a while," he told the publication.
Indeed, research has found that learning spurs the growth of new brain cells, which then increases the connections between cells, keeping the brain healthy, AARP reports.
Additionally, continuing education is an activity that can help seniors get active, which is another way to boost brain health and prevent falls, making senior living safer. Larimer told the media outlet that he also enjoys having something to do.
"It puts some structure back into your life," he told the source. "I find I like structure."