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Other Ways to Keep Mentally Active

Adult education, be it formal or informal, is not the only way to keep the brain active as we get older. It's vitally important to get mental activity and stimulation but there other ways of obtaining it.


Guide to 'Adult Education'. Content Links

Many hobbies and leisure activities require us to exercise our brain. Activities such as jigsaws, crosswords and Sudoku cause us to think and use our little grey cells. If you buy a weekend newspaper there will probably be enough mental puzzles in it to keep you going until the following weekend and you can always play board games such as chess, Monopoly and Scrabble.

Other hobbies and pastimes also allow us to use our brain whilst getting some social contact. Playing bridge is a good example as is doing a pub quiz. Look at the page in this Guide on Education and Socialising for some more ideas.

For some thoughts on hobbies and, in particular, ones that keep your brain active, have a look at our Guide to Hobbies and Interests. Also, have a look at our separate section on hobbies.

Outdoor Activities

You might not immediately think of outdoor activities as providing mental stimulation or adult education. However, think about planning a route for a walk or a jog. Reading the map, judging length and time and ensuring that you don't get lost all provide ample mental stimulation, even if it's not formal adult education. If you can't read a map, learning how to do so provides mental stimulation in itself. Go to the Ordnance Survey site to learn how to read a map. Orienteering, a mix of walking/running and map reading, also provides lots of mental stimulation. Go to the British Orienteering website to find out more.Orienteering: Skills - Techniques - Training (Crowood Sports Guides)

There are all kinds of other outdoor activities that require you to use your brain: bee-keeping, metal detecting, beach combing and clay pigeon shooting to name but a few. So choose an interest and start enjoying it whilst providing your brain with some work.


If you are still at work, you will be exercising your brain. If you have retired, then doing some part-time paid or voluntary work will provide you with varying degrees of mental stimulation, depending on what work you choose to do.

Sometimes it's not easy to find part-time work, particularly of the paid variety so, for help, go to our Guide to Part Time Working and our Guide to Voluntary Work. Also read our separate section on Work.

Joining Organisations

We mentioned the WI on the 'Education and Socialising' page, but any club or organisation that you join will probably help you to keep mentally active in one way or another, even if it doesn't provide adult education. So, if you take up a hobby, join the national organisation that oversees it, assuming there is one,  because it will probably arrange talks, lectures and so on.

There may be a village community organisation that arranges talks, outings and so on, so take advantage of that. You can join organisations like the Royal Academy and get invited to lectures. There are any number of clubs for the over 50s and 60s, so Google, 'Clubs for the over 50s/60s in....(your location)' and see what's available.

Joining clubs and organisations provides mental stimulation in itself because of the social interaction. If, in addition, there is an element of learning about something, be it of an academic or physical nature, the mental activity is, of course, a form of adult education.

So, in its broadest sense, adult education can be gained in ways that we don't necessarily always think of as 'education'. The important thing is to keep our brains active and there are many ways in which we can do this.

Now read the rest of the Guide to see some of the perhaps more conventional ways that we can get adult education.

Related guides and articles:

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This Guide to Adult Education is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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