As Americans age, they often complain of mental lapses and fear that they are, quite literally, losing their minds. Although some mental deterioration occurs naturally as we age, it shouldn’t greatly alter our lifestyles, experts say. They add that constantly challenging the mind is the best way to keep it healthy and sharp. Seniors can harness the wisdom they have gained with age to cope with minor memory losses.

Most importantly, older adults should be assured that minor memory lapses do not necessarily indicate major health problems. A recent article from the Mayo Clinic states: “Dementia (a mental decline to the point that affects daily activities, the most common form of which is Alzheimer’s disease) is more than forgetfulness. Ten percent of people older than 65 get dementia, so most people who occasionally forget things simply have too much on their mind.”

Seniors can compensate for changes in their mental capacity by challenging themselves regularly. To bolster and protect your mind, use it! Try taking a class at a neighborhood college, finding a part-time job, learning a new hobby, or simply doing crossword puzzles or reading at home.

From learning a new language to studying business and personal finance, local colleges provide many opportunities for continuing education:

  • SMU’s division of Education and Lifelong Learning offers a variety of credit and non-credit courses for older adults. To request a catalog, call 214-768-5376.
  • Richland College’s Training Source, Continuing Education and Workforce Development, also offers various courses for mature learners. For information, call 972-238-6144.

College courses need not be financially restrictive, due to a Texas legislative policy called the Emeritus program. Seniors 65 and older can audit courses for free, and for adults 55 years and older, tuition may be available at reduced prices.

Because seniors have a wealth of experience to offer the community, many companies look favorably upon hiring experienced workers. Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas can help seniors prepare for the job market through their Senior Connection program. Meeting on the first and third Thursdays of each month, the Senior Connection brings together adults 55 years and older who are entering the job market. To support and prepare group members, meetings discuss resume-building, interviewing skills and myths about older adults in the workforce.

Karen Hughes of Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas says, “The camaraderie in the Senior Connection is terrific. Group members support each other by helping each other find jobs, and celebrating each other’s successes.”

Dallas employment agency Imprimis also offers a career network, called Primetimers, exclusively for adults over the age of 40. The network places interested workers in full- and part-time positions and also offers computer training and varying levels of benefits. For information, call 972-419-1700.

Because computers and the Internet dominate so many jobs, some seniors shy away from re-entering the workforce. But several local organizations hold computer courses that teach wordprocessing and Internet training for potential workers and for those simply looking for personal enrichment. Judy Burke; program coordinator for Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas, says, “There are a lot more free and low cost computer courses available than when I learned two years ago.”