When he was eighty-seven years old, Michelangelo said, “I am still learning.” Mahatma Gandhi embraced the same never-stop-learning philosophy, as echoed in his words, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Lifelong learning may not be a new trend, but modern technology puts a virtual classroom learning apps, podcasts, and more—at our fingertips 24-7. And with dementia rates ever on the rise, the benefits of keeping the brain as fit as the body should not be understated or ignored. In fact, a 2012 Chicago-based study assessing 1,200 elders showed cognitively active seniors (with a median age of 80) were 2.6 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia than peers with less cognitive activity.
Want to make lifelong learning a priority this year and in the years beyond? Consider these terrific tech-based learning apps.
For well-rounded types:Interested in education on a variety of topics, genres, and subjects? Peruse the Great Courses catalog for renowned lectures in science, mathematics, history, fine arts, music, religion, philosophy, economics, literature, and more. Available to stream online, listen by podcast, or watch and listen via audio/video download, DVD, or CD form, there is something for every learner here.
Sit back, relax, and listen to the best lectures from the world’s most innovative and intelligent minds. The TED app gets you there with more than 2,000 TED talks.
For literary & linguistic types:Connected to the larger Goodreads community—which boasts over 35 million members—the Goodreads app allows you to browse an extensive catalog of books, get (and write) reviews, receive recommendations, participate in challenges, and more.
Want to learn a new language? The Babbel app offers 10-15 minute “bite-sized lessons,” conversational opportunities, and a review manager so you can practice what you’ve learned. And, if you have multiple devices, Babbel will sync your progress so you don’t lose it when you move between your tablet and smartphone.
Another great (free!) language learning app is DuoLingo. Users set up a profile and set their daily goals accordingly—ranging from “casual” (5 minutes a day) to “insane” (20 minutes per day).
For geography & history types:Love learning about the world? Review National Geographic’s apps catalog, which includes such programs as World Atlas, Birds, and City Guides. Also, Google Earth now offers a more detailed tool for download on the iPad, Windows, or Android systems.
The days of hardcover encyclopedia sets gracing our home’s bookshelves may be behind us, but the richness of Encyclopaedia Brittanica can still be explored and enjoyed through this subscription-based app.
For artist & hobbyist types:If you want to make learning a hands-on experience, Skillshare is a great place to start. Watch video courses on your computer or tablet, or download the app for easy access to over 13,000 creative classes in design, photography, film, fashion, and more. A similar learning app is Curious, also known as “the game of lifelong learning,” which boasts more than 25,000 video lessons on every topic imaginable.
Download Drawing Desk to edit photos, doodle, sketch, or draw—without the mess of paint, pencils, or charcoal.
For scientific types:Maybe you can’t mix chemicals in a lab anymore, but you can still explore the building blocks of science via apps like The Elements and Periodic Table. The Elements is described as “a rich and engaging love story of the periodic table, told in words and pictures.” Periodic Table is designed by the Royal Society of Chemistry and also offers podcasts, videos, and visuals of elements in their natural state and in real-life applications.
Fans of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters show should check out the Mythbusters HD app for the best blend of science—and entertainment.
Want to learn by giving back (but can’t leave your home)? Find out how seniors can serve as virtual volunteers in this post.