How Can You Reduce Your Dementia Risk?
How Can You Reduce Your Dementia Risk?

Studies have shown that being a lifelong student is associated with a lower risk of dementia, and speaking more than one language may delay the onset of some kinds of dementia by about four and a half years. Want to reap the benefits of learning without spending big on tuition and books? Lucky you—you’re living in a golden age of free education, both online and in the college classroom.

Learn a new language on your tablet or computer

Duolingo ( provides free lessons in 15 European languages and Esperanto in a multimedia, game-style format that lets you earn tokens for each level you complete. You can also take placement tests in your target language so the program can adjust to your level.

Babbel ( offers free click-and-learn lessons in 13 European languages and Indonesian. Just select the language you want to learn and follow the steps on each screen. Some of the languages, like Portuguese, let you start as a beginner or advanced learners. Others, such as Turkish, start everyone with the basics.

You’ll find more choices through OpenCulture’s free language course directory, which gives you language-learning options from Amharic to Yiddish. If you want to learn a non-European language, this may be your best bet.

Remember to find someone to help you practice your new skills. Many libraries and universities offer conversation groups where students chat with native speakers and more advanced students.

Go back to school in virtually anything

Khan Academy ( is as popular with adults as it is with schoolkids and college students who want help with their homework. Short videos explain topics in math, science, business, the arts, and computing. Math for Fun and Glory, anyone?

Khan Academy partners share their own courses, too. You can learn to make prints from New York’s Museum of Modern Art, get an in-depth look at the flu from Stanford School of Medicine, and measure the universe with NASA.

Coursera ( offers free courses taught by professors at top-tier universities in the US and beyond. Most are set up for working professionals who want to bolster their skills (popular subjects include Python-language computer programming and data science). Other topics include smartphone photography, writing, Buddhism, ancient philosophy, and yes, foreign languages.

TED Talks serve up quick introductions to fresh topic, and thought-provoking looks at familiar subjects. These video lectures from the international nonprofit Technology, Entertainment and Design conference are usually 20 minutes or less and presented by experts in their fields. The 20 most-watched TED Talks cover topics including creativity, body language, human sexuality, future technology, and stroke recovery.

Watch the playlist now:

Get a college degree for free

If you’d rather delve deeply into a subject and earn a diploma to show for it, you may be in luck. One of the best-kept secrets in higher education is that many states offer free, for-credit classes at their public universities. In Texas, students age 65 and older admission and GPA requirements can take 6 credit hours (usually 2 classes) for free each semester. The credit can be applied toward to degree. Georgia residents age 62 and up have similar options, including free distance learning. You can find more information by searching online for free college for seniors in your state.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.


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