By: Steve Bond, BScPhm, RPh, CDE, FASCP

As a father of teenage daughters, I find myself learning new facts daily. Some are fascinating and others I put into the category of TMI (too much information). As a pharmacist, I routinely update my knowledge so that I can provide the most current information.  Whenever I write an article, I spend a great deal of time reviewing a topic to make sure that my data is correct.  As I look back on my life, I realize that many “facts” I knew as a young man have been altered based on more recent studies.  For example, as a boy, I knew the nine planets by using the phrase: “My Very Easy Method, Just Set Up Nine Planets”.  With the downgrade of Pluto in 2006, I must change my mnemonic to “My Very Excellent Mom Just Served Up Noodles.”

While this may seem like a simple change, it highlights a key aspect of our lives: that learning is a lifelong endeavour.  During Covid, I was often asked about what the correct protocols were for vaccines, physical distancing etc.  I would give my answer with a small caveat, “at least that’s as of today”.  This was because as a global community, we were all learning.  I always say, science doesn’t change but our understanding of it does.  As we progressed through the pandemic, our understanding and practices evolved.  Thank goodness for experts such as our local health unit who kept us up to date.

There are several health implications to constantly learning.  Our brain is like any other organ, it works best when it is used.  Studies have demonstrated that learning keeps our brain cells working at an optimum level and may help to slow down cognitive decline.  Since we never learn in a vacuum, there is the social aspect of learning.  Taking a class or even discussing local events with friends allows us to interact and this social interaction improves our physical and mental wellbeing.  There is also the increase in self-fulfilment.  As older adults we can choose what we want to learn.  There is no set curriculum, so we often gravitate towards fields that interest us.  Whether it be a cooking class, or perhaps a class at the library to improve computer literacy, we can pick and choose what we want to learn.  You are never too old to benefit from learning.  Challenge yourself and reap the rewards.  Take care of yourselves and each other.