Research shows viewing pictures or videos of important life events can help temporarily reconnect a cognitively impaired individual with their memories. Combining these catalysts with the natural curiosity in our participants is a perfect recipe for helping people continue to learn and share experiences in order to keep them fulfilled.

For instance, take a timely event coming up: July 20, 1969 marked the first landing of man on the moon. We can trigger memories of that event: Did you watch it on television? Who was with you? How did you feel about it? And we can use that to springboard into discussions about current plans for “space tourism” and further exploration of the moon and planets, tapping into participants’ curiosity.

Curiosity is a word that we use all the time with people that participate in EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ classes because it is a word that isn’t widely used — it’s not worn out or over-used. When older people attended school, we weren’t encouraged to be curious — we were encouraged to memorize the information and show mastery of the topic.

The past 20 years have had an emergence of research around our aging brains. While we don’t have cures for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, we have discovered that doing things we don’t normally do, like being curious, can strengthen and even create new brain pathways.

Being curious about new things can serve as powerful factors in cognition and behavior as we age. While we need more research to understand exactly how or why this happens, there is one thing we know: Our memory is often better if we work at learning new things.

Curious people are happier. They experience higher levels of positive emotions, lower anxiety levels, and higher satisfaction with life.

Curiosity provides us with a sense of accomplishment. We are pleased with ourselves when we learn new things or do something new.

Curiosity provides purpose. As we age, many of the things we once did for ourselves are now done by someone else. If we create a “curious state of mind,” we no longer have to worry about what we can’t do, but we can focus on what we CAN do.

Being curious helps reduce isolation. Meeting new people, even virtually, rekindling old relationships, joining a walking club, or attending an art class, encourages you to be curious.

Curiosity can help us understand our constantly changing world.

Encountering new things is good for our brain. So if we are curious, we may feel better? Yes.

Our brain releases a chemical known as “dopamine” and other feel-good chemicals when we have new experiences.

Learning is a gift that never ends; it is something you can give to yourself. Humans like to learn, and we have so many opportunities to learn every day. Living things are naturally curious — humans get to act on their curiosity in ways that help us mentally and physically.

Learning for an older adult starts with curiosity, so get into that “curious state of mind.”

EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ provides quality online classes for use in programming at assisted living communities, adult day clubs, and for memory care providers. Reach us via email or toll free by phone at (800) 990-9806.