I recently took a painting class with friends during which I learned that my lack of brush-stroke skills compounded my dearth of innate visual talents. I’m the weakest link among my more artistic friends. And it has made me hesitant to take more classes. But I’m rethinking my decision after hearing about a study that found that those who challenge themselves by learning novel skills get the biggest memory boost as they age.
“Pushing yourself to learn a new skill is likely critical when it comes to maintaining brain function as we age,” said Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas. She bases that recommendation on a clinical trial she led involving 221 participants over age 60 who were randomly assigned to either learn digital photography or quilting for at least 15 hours a week, to socialize on group outings, or to play word games and watch informative documentaries.