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Experience Corps: Promoting Healthy, Meaningful Aging Through Social Involvement

The cur­rent issue of Cere­brum –a great pub­li­ca­tion of the Dana Foun­da­tion– includes the excel­lent in-depth arti­cle Pro­mot­ing Healthy, Mean­ing­ful Aging Through Social Involve­ment: Build­ing an Expe­ri­ence Corps, writ­ten by researcher Michelle Carl­son:

Over the last decade, sci­en­tists made two key dis­cov­er­ies that reframed our under­stand­ing of the adult brain’s poten­tial to ben­e­fit from life­long envi­ron­men­tal enrich­ment. First, they learned that the adult brain remains plas­tic; it can gen­er­ate new neu­rons in response to phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and new expe­ri­ences. Sec­ond, they con­firmed the impor­tance of social con­nect­ed­ness to late-life cog­ni­tive, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and phys­i­cal health. The inte­gra­tion of these find­ings with our under­stand­ing of indi­vid­u­als’ devel­op­men­tal needs through­out life under­scores the impor­tance of the “social brain.” The pre­frontal cor­tex (PFC) is par­tic­u­lar­ly inte­gral to nav­i­gat­ing com­plex social behav­iors and hier­ar­chies over the life course.

In this arti­cle, I will briefly artic­u­late how the above find­ings inform the design of a social health-pro­mo­tion pro­gram, the Expe­ri­ence Corps, which lever­ages seniors’ accu­mu­lat­ed expe­ri­ences and social knowl­edge while pro­mot­ing con­tin­ued social, men­tal, and phys­i­cal health into the third age, when a person’s life goals are increas­ing­ly direct­ed to lega­cy build­ing. Expe­ri­ence Corps har­ness­es the time and wis­dom of one the world’s largest nat­ur­al grow­ing resources—aging adults—to pro­mote aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment and lit­er­a­cy in our devel­op­ing nat­ur­al resources—children—during a crit­i­cal peri­od in child devel­op­ment. In so doing, old­er vol­un­teers instill a readi­ness to learn that may alter the child’s tra­jec­to­ry for edu­ca­tion­al and occu­pa­tion­al attain­ment, as well as life­long health. At the same time, pre­lim­i­nary evi­dence sug­gests that the senior vol­un­teers expe­ri­ence mea­sur­able improve­ments in their cog­ni­tive and brain health.”

–> To read full arti­cle: click Here.

–> For a fuller per­spec­tive, you can read The Glob­al Agen­da Coun­cil on the Age­ing Soci­ety: Pol­i­cy Prin­ci­ples.

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  1. Matt P says:

    I know a woman who is com­ing in on her 109th birth­day this year. She still lives by her­self and takes care of her­self with lit­tle out­side help. Her secret? Social life. She has a wide range of sup­port from friends and fam­i­ly that con­tin­ue to give her a pur­pose to live. Friend­ships can make all the dif­fer­ence!

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