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.