You don’t have to be 21 and fit as a fiddle to reap the rewards of doing something you love. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular hobbies for the 65-and-up crowd and explain why many leisure activities provide more than relaxation.
If you’re a pooch parent, you already have a hobby partner: your dog! Spending time with a furry friend has many wonderful benefits for people of all ages, but dog walking is an especially great hobby for seniors. It’s a low-impact way for seniors to stay in shape, and also encourages them to spend time outdoors in naturally mood-boosting sunshine. It also provides social opportunities with both pups and people; if there are other pet parents in your neighborhood, for example, you can set up a time for group outings once (or more) a day. If you don’t have a dog of your own but are an animal lover, you can reap the same rewards by offering to walk loved ones’ dogs.
Despite being a fairly low-impact sport, golf offers a host of physical and mental health benefits for older adults. The average adult can burn as many as 2,000 calories by the end of the back nine. According to the Golf Academy of America, golfers work their cranium as hard as their clubs. Golf is a mental workout that keeps players’ problem-solving skills sharp regardless of age.
There are few things more relaxing than soaking up the sun from the bow of the family boat on a warm summer afternoon. Boating offers seniors ample opportunity to stay active, whether by fishing or even waterskiing. If that last one is a little hard to believe, check out this CBS News story about Frances Woofenden, an 81-year-old champion water skier with more pep in her step than most people a quarter of her age.
Even if you’ve never touched a canvas, painting can help you “brush aside” stress while keeping your fine motor skills moving right along. In addition to refining your creative talents, painting also nurtures emotional growth and can help strengthen your memory. Neurologists at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital have even found evidence that artists are less vulnerable to cognitive decline than their non-creative counterparts.
Woodworking is a whole brain activity that can keep the splinters out of your memory. Other health benefits of building something from scratch include stress relief, self-esteem enhancement, and time to yourself for a mental reboot. Watching something useful (and beautiful) emerge from a stack of raw wood is a great way to give yourself a mood boost when you’re feeling down in the dumps. You don’t have to have exceptional carpentry skills or fancy tools to get started. The Family Handyman lists several satisfying projects for beginners that require little more than wood, willpower, and elbow grease.
Gardening is perhaps the most relaxing yet productive activity on this list and also serves a dual purpose of providing fresh fare to fuel the mind, body, and soul. Senior gardeners reap the rewards of working the soil in more ways than one. The body benefits from the physical activities associated with gardening – raking, hoeing, and harvesting, for example. Planting a garden and watching it grow from seed and sow to a bountiful buffet can actually help lower your risk of dementia by more than 35 percent, according to a 16-year-long study of more than 2,800 seniors published by the National Library of Medicine.
While many hobbies involve moderate-to-intense physical activity, there are just as many that can be equally enjoyed by seniors with mobility issues. Genealogy, the study of one’s family roots, is one such pastime. Seniors who enjoy reading and researching will find plenty of pleasure digging through their own history. Building a family tree can also become an intergenerational activity that grandparents share with their youngest progeny. Spending time with family on a long-term project will strengthen your relationships with your loved ones and give you the opportunity to leave a legacy that will live on forever.
There are literally endless possibilities that will keep you physically, mentally, and socially engaged well past retirement. By remaining involved in activities you love, you give yourself your best chance at living out your Golden Years with your health intact, your heart whole, and your head clear.