Earlier this year Elderhostel and the Elderhostel Institute Network completed a significant research project that resulted in a publication entitled *Mental Stimulation and Lifelong Learning in the 55+
Population.* This research grew out of Elderhostel's desire to better understand participants by studying how they are different from other older adults, and thereby to offer guidance to Baby Boomers on how to age with equal success.

The methodology of this research was two-fold (1) focus groups and (2) a qualitative survey of the national 55+ sample population. A series of 15 focus groups were conducted in October 2005 in Waltham, MA, Columbus, OH and Encino, CA to begin to understand the range of activities that
older adults believed provided mental stimulation. Focus group comments and responses were analyzed and a list of various activities was included in the follow up survey. The survey was then sent to a national sample of adults, age 55+ and to a sample of Elderhostel participants who had participated in an EH program within the past 12 months.

This research highlighted that there are 4 *lifelong learning* segments in the 55+ population here in the United States:
* Focused Mental Achievers - 13% of the general population
* Contented Recreational Learners - 34% of the general population
* Isolated Homebodies - 18% of the general population
* Pessimists - 11% of the general population with minimal participation   in lifelong learning because of poor health or scant resources

Not surprisingly, Elderhostel participants fall overwhelmingly into the Focused Mental Achievers (49%) and Contented Recreational Learners (35%) and are involved in a wide range of activities in addition to educational travel.

While we know that the notion of “use it or lose it” is widely believed by the general public, this research supports a broader and more nuanced restatement of the *use it or lose it* proposition -
that a commitment to lifelong learning and a “balanced program of brain exercise” involving activities blending mental stimulation, social engagement, physical activities and creative expression is a promising and ultimately more satisfying path to *successful aging* and possibly to long-term brain health.

To read the full report, click on the link below and you can download the full report with Adobe Acrobat: http://www.elderhostel.org/research/lifelonglearning/lifelonglearning.asp

Thanks to Michael Markowitz, director of the IRP in New York City for sending this report.




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