Learning for life: Online skills and activities for seniors

Jan 05, 2021


Learning for life: Online skills and activities for seniors

Today, Americans are living longer than ever. Life expectancy has been on the increase for decades: American men aged 65 are expected to live an average of 18.1 more years, while women in the same age group are expected to live at least 20.7 more years. Medical science and technology have had a lot to do with it, but that’s just part of the story. Research studies have found that elderly people who remain engaged and active cognitively and physically live longer, more fulfilling lives. Today, the internet is one of the most effective tools for maintaining an active mindset and contributing to healthy social interaction, a major mental health factor. 

Net fear

Many seniors have a built-in phobia when it comes to the internet. For people age 65 and older, the fax machine may still seem like a new-fangled wonder; they didn’t grow up with computer and communication technologies as people do today, so learning how to search the Web and communicate with others online can seem alien, even intimidating. That’s too bad, because the internet can help seniors learn, socialize and become more independent.

Toning cognitive ‘muscles’ 

Online games are a proven-effective way to elevate brain functioning and can contribute to a happier, healthier overall outlook. There are a number of free, online sites for senior citizens, featuring games that can boost memory and help develop strategic thinking skills. AARP Games includes a variety of online games, many of which seniors will instantly recognize and be comfortable with, such as Solitaire, Mahjong and poker. Memozor.com, another cost-free site, focuses on bolstering memory and imparting memory skills with fun games that accommodate participants of different skill levels. 

Online courses & learning

For seniors who want to learn skills in a specific area - anything from plumbing to world history and quantum physics - leading universities like MIT and Stanford offer free online courses. This is an excellent opportunity for friends to have fun learning together. MIT’s OpenCourseWare follows a traditional course format, including assignments, tests, and online lectures. Additionally, you can take online courses through schools like WGU that will allow you to earn a bachelor's degree.

The goal of the American Society on Aging is to help seniors to grow by learning and developing skills that can enhance opportunities to branch into new areas of interest and improve quality of life. The society makes available an exhaustive list of educational opportunities and online learning resources. 

Side gigs for seniors

One of the best ways to stay engaged and build strong social networks is to take one’s skills onto the internet, a robust virtual marketplace for anyone who wants to make some money doing what they enjoy. Individuals who have a flair for arts and crafts can hone their skills at websites like Craftsy and Creative Bug, and maybe even join with friends to form an online business. If woodworking is more your speed, there are countless opportunities to enhance your ability and make bookshelves and end tables for fun and profit. 

Dog training

Learning dog-training techniques is a great option for people who’ve always been partial to pooches. You can learn to train with obedience commands like “sit,” “settle” and more. Useful in so many situations, “sit” is often the first command dogs learn. In fact, most dogs “sit” on their own, so all you have to do is connect the command to the behavior.

The internet is a  powerful resource for older Americans who want to continue leading vibrant and productive lives well into their senior years. It’s a tool that can help you learn and do so many of the things you always wanted but couldn’t find the time.