THE BLOG

Hanging on to Your 'Joie de Vivre'

03/29/2013 11:20 am ET | Updated May 29, 2013

Many people believe that continuing education can improve physical and mental health. I am firmly of that opinion. I can certainly attest to the benefits of taking up a hobby, an activity or learning a new skill at any age.

Retirement is a particularly good time to start something you always wanted to do but never had the time to enjoy before. Here, I am not talking just about hobbies. There are more classes and possibilities than you realize, once you start looking into it. The Age UK website states that there are now more than 600,000 learners over the age of sixty in England alone. You are never too old to learn, so why not begin now, and sample something a little different?

There is an abundance of classes available and these days, they are not confined to evenings. Choose from part-time, day, weekend, online and long-distance classes. Popular classes include languages, photography, yoga, cooking, computer skills, jewelery making and family history. You don't have to stick to these. There are more exciting and varied courses. Check out Tribal belly-dancing, public speaking, wine tasting, film editing, bee keeping, rock climbing, plumbing, special effects makeup and learning Mandarin, among others.

Why not add yet another dimension to this and, instead of going to a local college to study them, travel abroad? What could be better than learning Italian in Rome on a short stay vacation? How about cooking at a chateau in France? Or, experiencing yoga in Thailand and photography in South Africa? The world is your oyster and depending on budget, you should be able to find something to suit your pocket.

What about becoming a grown up "gapper"? Many students seize the opportunity to take a year out during studies to travel, so why don't you? This is becoming a hugely popular option with older people and there are quite a few programs available just for us. Take a Tango Dance course in Argentina, become a volunteer at an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka, teach underprivileged children in India or even walk with lions in Zimbabwe. You never know what may come of it.

Not everyone can find the cash to travel or is ready to retire. You could, however, change career or just update your skills. Take a leaf out of Gill Phelps' book. Gill from Canterbury, UK qualified as a personal trainer when she was 52, has since continued her learning and is now qualified in first-aid, working with people who have had heart attacks and has learned to incorporate Nordic pole-walking into a fitness regime. Or, if you are more adventurous, follow the example of Carolyn Steele who left the UK for Ontario, and, on a whim, trained to drive eighteen-wheelers. She hit the road to see what would happen, and wrote a book about her exciting adventures entitled, "Trucking in English."

It is important to realise that although we are getting older we do not have to become old or stick in a rut. Even if you are unwilling to take up a course you should at least keep up-to-date with modern technology, fashion and music. (Yes, even that noisy stuff your children used to listen to before they left the nest.) Ensuring you are living in the modern age can make you feel more youthful. As much as you may loathe it, technology is here to stay, so you may as well embrace the opportunities it affords, purchase a smart phone and take out your frustrations on an Angry Birds app. As for attire, check yourself out in the mirror. Are you still wearing the same things you wore in 1989? Go and buy a more modern outfit. Trust me, you will feel much younger.