GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 22, 2013

Preventing brain drain

Senior Lookout
Anne Springer

---- — One recent study suggests that elders might stave off memory loss by drinking a cup of chocolate milk before bed. Flavenoids, thought to protect brain cells from damage are found in cocoa, as well as in tea, grapes, and red wine. But, there are other things that can keep one’s mind active, without the associated risk of too much liquid before bedtime, something that some older adults avoid so that they reduce the likelihood of too many nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Many colleges are offering free courses, lectures, and other study opportunities online. So, people can avail themselves of interesting things to think about, whether they want to obtain information relevant to a career change, a retirement hobby, or just something to pass the time and keep the brain cells functioning.

Major universities, such as Yale, Cornell, MIT, Dartmouth and Stanford have video lecture material on www.academicearth.org. Subjects are diverse, ranging from astronomy to physics to philosophy.

Interestingly, Research Channel didn’t survive, due to lack of funding, but its YouTube channel is still active (http://www.youtube.com/user/ResearchChannel/videos?view=0), and although some of the information there might not be as timely, viewers can still access lectures on such subjects as Charles Darwin, The Real Costs of Teen Motherhood and Sherman’s March.

Speaking of YouTube, there is a subsection called YouTubeEDU that provides access to educational videos on a wide range of subjects, “academic lectures, inspirational speeches and everything in between.”

At http://www.learnerstv.com/ users can access free video and audio lectures of whole courses conducted by faculty from various universities, mostly on the subjects of math, sciences, engineering. Nursing, medical and dental subject matter is also available there.

Podcasts of lectures are hosted on iTunesU. Just one example is a lecture series by Dr. Courtenay Raia, of UCLA, on “History 2D: Science, Magic and Religion: Antiquity to the Present.”

For those thinking about going back to college, or finding a new career in retirement, some of these free courses can give a low-risk taste of what it’s like to take a course, since they are free. But, some online education sites are planning to offer courses for credit, notably Coursera (Recently, the American Council on Education announced that four of its courses were worthy of college credit), Udacity, and edX. There will probably be a fee associated with taking credit courses, but as educational institutions try to figure out ways of making education more accessible and less costly, expect more activity in this area.

In the meantime, if all that happens is that one’s brain cells continue to perform, it’s worth it to participate in a bit of new learning.

Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.