Most of us with busy workweeks turn to hobbies to unwind and have some fun, as it should be! For seniors, though, leisure activities can play a much more critical role – in sharpening cognitive ability, keeping the mind active and engaged, and preventing the symptoms of depression that can lead to serious health problems. If you have a senior parent or person close to you who might benefit from taking up a new interest or two, encourage them to keep an open mind! Often the most rewarding pursuits taken up after transitioning out of the 9-5 world are the very same activities that felt like a hassle when trying to squeeze them into a packed day – such as cooking, for example. Here are some of our top suggestions for hobbies to consider in senior years:
- Collecting: This is one of those labor-intensive hobbies that tend to fall by the wayside during the demands of our working years. Retirement can provide the leisure time needed to revive that languishing stamp collection, or start researching an interest you’ve always had. Basic knowledge of eBay is often all Dad needs to get started – check out EBay for Seniors for Dummies on Amazon for a great resource on the subject.
- Learning a Language: If Mom loves to travel but isn’t physically up to it, learning a new language is a wonderful way to be exposed to foreign culture and traditions. Many senior and community centers offer basic classes; there are also modular lessons through companies like Rosetta Stone that are offered at home with the support of online communities. And there are real cognitive benefits as well: a recent study showed that seniors who learned a second language displayed an onset of dementia symptoms five years after those who didn’t!
- Arts and Crafts: Whether you’ve always enjoyed working with your hands or have never picked up a paintbrush, your senior years can be an ideal time to stimulate the creative part of your brain and learn something new. Taking up a skill like wood working, knitting, or quilting requires high levels of concentration and fine-motor skill building, with the added satisfaction of producing a finished product to enjoy or give to a loved one. Painting or drawing also requires a lot of concentration without the confines of a pattern or a recipe – ideal for those who might want a bit less structure in their creative process!
- Volunteering: Retirement can at times cause seniors to lose valuable social contacts, which can contribute to isolation and even depression. Putting skills and interests into action through volunteering is an effective way to get retirees back into their communities where they’re interacting with others and getting vital cognitive stimulation. Retired Brains is a great resource for seniors to match skills with opportunities in their area.
- Dancing: While it might be a lot of fun, dancing offers some serious health benefits to seniors that you might not think of, including improved balance, muscle strengthening, and cardiovascular function. A recent study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine has even shown ballroom dancing can combat symptoms of dementia, with its emphasis on learning complex dance steps and keeping time with the music. Encourage Mom or Dad to check out class offerings at their local senior center, library, or church community – maybe help them to sign up with a friend!
For more ideas on senior hobbies, check out Love to Know.