If you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s one way to look at getting older. When it comes to your physical and mental health, staying active is essential.
One of the reasons that people lose strength and stamina as they age is that they reduce their physical activity. Socializing and stimulating your brain can keep your mind sharp with every birthday. The mental and physical activity that you do doesn’t have to be strenuous to be effective
Develop consistency surrounding these healthy habits by taking up some hobbies that support your well-being. The following hobbies for seniors can help you live a long and healthy life.
How Your Body Changes as You Age
People tend to become more inactive as they age. When we live in a society in which only about 23 percent of adults are getting enough physical activity, this is an alarming statistic. By the time they’re 75, one-third of men and half of women don’t do any unnecessary physical activity at all.
There are many reasons that people become more sedentary as they age, including:
- Medical problems
- Weight issues
- Concerns about falling
Your body changes as you get older. You begin to carry more fat. At the same time, muscle mass, bone mineral density, and lean tissue decrease. Your cells don’t hold onto fluid as easily, causing visible changes to your body.
Estrogen in women diminishes as they age, which creates a shift in the way that they store fat. Belly fat becomes more common in elderly adults. It can be dangerous if it’s deep and accumulates around the organs.
Men experience a similar change in fat storage due to a drop in testosterone levels. They may put less weight on in their hips and more on around their spare tire as they age.
When you combine these changes with a natural decrease in muscle tissue, you get a slower metabolism. If you eat more calories than you burn, that energy is more likely to turn into fat if you’re older.
It’s never too late to start exercising. Hobbies that involve physical activity can reduce some of the risks that are associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Moving your body in a way that you enjoy can also prevent you from losing mobility.
Many hobbies can be adapted for seniors. You don’t have to perform at the same level as someone half your age. Take it easy and be patient with yourself.
How Your Brain Changes as You Age
Your brain shrinks as you get older. As it loses volume, your brain may drop neural connections that once existed. Those connections are the pathways that help you do everything that you do, from moving your body to remembering a skill that you learned.
The brain’s aging process begins in your 20s. Your mind retains the neural connections that you actively use. It prunes away the pathways that you don’t rely on as much.
Your ability to think and reason quickly may slow down in your 20s and 30s. Receptors in your brain don’t fire as quickly now. The myelin that insulates your nerve fibers begins to degrade, making connections between neurons move more slowly.
As you lose neurons, you may notice changes in your memory. You forget people’s names or lose your keys. Minor memory loss such as this can occur as early as your mid-30s.
In your 40s and 50s, your reasoning skills become more sluggish. You may find it harder to find the perfect word for the story that you’re telling.
Before you become too discouraged, you should know that your ability to read social cues, regulate emotions, and make moral decisions increases between the ages of 40 and 80. Continuing to gain life experience can make these markers of cognition even stronger.
Plus, your brain is always rewiring itself. If you keep exposing yourself to new experiences, you’ll keep your learning pathways flexible and open.
By the time you reach your 60s, however, your brain loses some of its ability to access knowledge and learn new information. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia increases with age.
Hobbies are vital for helping elderly adults maintain a lifestyle that they love and potentially reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Physical activity improves blood circulation in the brain, which enhances brain health. Hobbies can also help people stay mentally sharp, retain their memory, and be creative as they get older.
It can get harder to keep up the mental and physical acuity that you need to perform your hobbies as you age, though. You might need to adapt your activities so that they’re easier to perform. Perhaps you could use some support from a caregiver, loved one or friend. Socialization is essential to keep up as you age too.
Whether you get together with friends or do them alone, the following hobbies for seniors can keep you vibrant throughout your life.
Hobbies for Seniors
Many seniors have plenty of free time. They have about 7 hours of leisure time a day. Half of it is spent on screens. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Connecting with people on social media can reduce depression, especially among older adults who have reduced mobility due to pain. Watching television or using the internet can be constructive, but not if it takes away from sleep or socialization.
Hobbies that get people moving and prevent them from becoming socially isolated can also do wonders for mental and physical health. Here are some ideas for hobbies that may be fulfilling for seniors.
Making art is a great way to help elderly people maintain their fine motor skills. It’s also a significant form of expression. Art can help people manage emotions and even communicate if their verbal skills have deteriorated.
Art is often used in long-term care facilities to keep people busy. But creative expression does more than give you something to do. Art therapy can:
- Improve motivation
- Increase self-esteem
- Enhance self-confidence
- Facilitate communication
- Maintain cognitive functioning
Art therapy can take a number of forms. Throwing pottery is a sensory experience that doesn’t require much attention to detail but can be very rewarding. It can help people maintain muscle tone and mobility in their hands, wrists, and arms.
Art therapists often use mandalas. These circular designs are symmetrical and can serve as an excellent focal point for meditation. If creating mandalas is too much, consider coloring them in. There are many coloring books and printable images online with mandalas. Some art therapists have their patients color them in with hues that represent the way they feel that day.
The possibilities for visual art are endless. Many people struggle with putting a pencil to paper—either because they don’t feel creative or because they have fine motor issues, pain, or arthritis. There are many ways to express yourself through art, from painting to collage.
Encourage yourself or a loved one to focus on the process of creation. The outcome is not important. Moreover, art almost never ends up looking the way that you expected it to.
Caring for a Pet
Although you may not consider caring for a pet to be a hobby, it’s a valuable activity for elderly adults. Feeding, cleaning up after and cuddling with an animal can take up time and make people feel important. Plus, pets are wonderful companions.
Some of the best pets for seniors include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and fish. If you get a pet, make sure that its needs match your mobility level. You don’t want a high-energy dog that needs to go for long walks if you can’t move around easily.
If you get a cat, you’ll have to feed them and change their litter box. Kitties also typically appreciate cuddles, and you can spend time playing with them by dangling a string in front of them or encouraging them to “hunt” a toy.
A dog can bring lots of rambunctious fun to your household. While a small dog may seem easier to manage, it’s easy to trip over a tiny pet. Instead of worrying so much about the size, consider a dog’s energy level. A fenced-in yard can help dogs get out to play without taxing their owners too much.
Like cats, rabbits can be litter trained. They don’t need a lot of exercises, but they usually enjoy being petted. They need to play and run around a little bit, but rabbits usually require less maintenance than dogs.
Birds and fish can be rewarding pets. Keeping their cage or aquarium looking great is part of the fun. Fish are typically easier to care for than birds, but you might need to read up on certain species to make their environment perfect.
Mature pets are often calmer than young ones, and they tend to be overlooked by families that are looking for puppies and kittens. Consider adopting an animal that is in a similar life stage as you. The two of you can grow older gracefully with one other’s company.
Yoga or Tai Chi
Yoga and Tai Chi are more than just forms of exercise; these activities are gentle, low-impact, and relaxing. While some yoga classes are more challenging than others, one that’s designed for seniors could be ideal.
You know that being mobile is good for the body. The New York Times reports that yoga may be good for the brain too. Emerging research indicates that people may be able to slow age-related cognitive decline by making smart lifestyle choices. Yoga is one of those intelligent options.
Combining physical exercise with meditation can improve the outcomes of both activities. Being present during a yoga practice can help you move your body more effectively and with intention. Moving slowly during meditation can keep your mind from wandering.
In the study that the New York Times referred to, scientists found that people who practice yoga as opposed to meditative dance experienced improved moods. They also experienced more connection in the regions of their brains that are involved in remembering, speaking, and concentrating.
Yoga isn’t the only way to reap the benefits of moving slowly. Tai Chi elicits a similar mind-body connection.
Plus, practicing these pursuits can improve health in other ways. Some of the benefits of yoga and Tai Chi for seniors include:
- Improving strength and flexibility
- Reducing the risk of falling
- Improving balance
- Building stability in the ankles
- Enhancing core strength
- Reducing pain
- Increasing function in people with chronic disease
- Boosting immunity
You can find yoga videos and Tai Chi for seniors on YouTube.
If you don’t want to practice yoga or Tai Chi, you could take up dancing. The sky is the limit when it comes to putting together dance moves. But you don’t have to dance alone. Joining others in a class is one way to make sure that you get some interpersonal connection.
In one study, seniors who participated in a dance therapy program that involved low-impact steps set to music. They were able to walk faster and had better balance after taking the classes.
Other studies have found similar results. Ballroom dancing has been linked to a reduced risk of dementia. Dancing can also improve your mood and help you keep your weight under control.
Dancing poses a mental and physical challenge. With many types of dance, you have to remember the steps and listen to the rhythm of the music. Making these connections helps you keep your mind sharp as you burn calories.
Gardening is a fun and beneficial hobby for anyone. It’s especially advantageous for seniors because it reduces stress and could increase your longevity.
Being outdoors and getting enough physical activity can help you live longer. Gardening accomplishes both goals. It’s a low-impact physical activity, and consistency helps your garden grow. The need to be consistent also ensures that you get your daily activity in.
Gardeners have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Many say that gardening restores them and puts them in a good mood. Plus, getting fresh air and sunlight can make you feel better whether you’re under the weather or feeling blue. Moreover, people with a gardening hobby have a 36 percent lower chance of developing dementia than those who don’t garden.
You don’t need a lot of space to enjoy this hobby. You can plant seeds in pots to grow a garden just about anywhere, including a patio, balcony or indoors. Choose plants that you love to look at. You’ll learn how to care for them properly as you go.
Playing cards is a fun and simple way to stay entertained. There are hundreds of card games that you can learn how to play with a simple deck. Many of them require you to get together with other people to play. You can also engage in one-player games to keep your mind sharp when you don’t have a chance to socialize.
Board games and video games can also be excellent hobbies for seniors with limited mobility. Digital gaming isn’t just for young people. About 21 percent of gamers are 50 years old or older.
You don’t have to play violent games or own a console to take advantage of this hobby. Many traditional board games, such as Scrabble, are available in a digital format. You can play those on a computer or mobile device.
Playing games is entertaining. It also gives you a reason to socialize with friends. Engaging in video games can also improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time. It may even prevent memory loss.
If you aren’t a fan of games, puzzles might get you going. Jigsaw puzzles challenge your brain. Plus, you usually end up creating a beautiful picture as you finish. You can varnish a puzzle and hang it on your wall if you’re especially proud of your work.
A puzzle doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting. If you have a table that gets little use, consider keeping your puzzle on it, and come back to it when you’re interested in it. Putting together jigsaw puzzles is a hobby that you can take at your own pace.
Assembling 3D puzzles puts a whole new spin on this hobby. If you have the dexterity, try building a puzzle that resembles one of the world’s famous landmarks. For people who have difficulty with fine motor skills, enlist a friend to help you put the pieces in place.
You’re never too old to take your health into your hands. When you take up cooking, you can gain control over what you eat and feel a sense of achievement when you make something delicious. You’ll be able to take responsibility for your menu plan. Plus, if you’re a picky eater, you can stay in the driver’s seat and make sure that you’re always creating something tasty.
Some ways to make cooking a fun hobby include:
- Trying healthy recipes
- Learning how to make plant-based meals
- Testing out foods from around the world
- Working through different recipe books
One way to involve your friends in your new hobby is to hold a cookbook club. Decide on a specific cookbook that you’ll use for your next gathering. Everyone makes a dish from that cookbook and shares it when you get together. You get the benefits of taste-testing the recipes in the cookbook without having to do all of the work yourself.
Golf used to be a hobby that people associated with the retirement years. Although there are many young golfers out there, this is still an ideal activity for older folks.
When you golf, you get outside in nature. You also have the opportunity to hang out with your friends. Plus, you can set goals and work toward improving your skills. Golf is a hobby that never gets boring.
If you have never golfed before, you might want to take lessons from a pro who has experience helping older people. You want to develop a strong swing that works with the mechanics of your body.
One of the benefits of golfing into your older years is that you often have more maturity than younger players. Instead of trying to imitate the pros or get too competitive, you can play your own game and recognize that it’s all about enjoying yourself.
Reading is a hobby that you can take anywhere. You don’t have to be active or mobile to do it. You don’t even have to have good eyesight. If you have trouble reading the text in books, you can use an e-reader, which typically allows you to adjust the font size. You can even listen to audiobooks.
You can even read books about another hobby. Whether you’re into fiction, non-fiction, magazines, or another genre, you have a practically unlimited wealth of resources when it comes to reading.
This hobby gives you something to do when you’re by yourself, but it can be isolating. Transform reading into a social activity by starting a book club. Decide on a book to read every month, and meet with your friends regularly to discuss it.
Plus, reading stimulates your mind and helps you preserve memory and thinking skills. In one study, researchers found that people who were actively engaged in reading, writing and visiting the library throughout their lives had slower memory loss as other people. Those who did have some signs of Alzheimer’s showed less decline in their cognition than the researchers would have expected.
Learning a Language
Although traveling can be a wonderful hobby for seniors who are still active and mobile, you don’t have to travel to learn a new language. Language-learning apps for mobile devices make this a fun and useful hobby.
Don’t assume that you’re too old to learn a new language. Evidence shows that people of any age can pick up a new vocabulary. Research into neuroplasticity shows that the brain can restructure its pathways of communication. Although learning a language may be harder at age 50 than age 5, it’s still doable.
Besides, picking up a new language exercises the brain. It could even stave off dementia. In one study, scientists found that people who spoke only one language were more likely to develop dementia at an earlier age than those who spoke more than one language.
Switching between languages activates parts of the brain that are responsible for executive functioning. It can also improve an elderly person’s well-being. When you learn a language, you also discover a new culture. Learning a language opens up a whole new world for seniors.
Even if you’re not a visual artist, you can get creative with a variety of materials and make crafts. Some ideas for crafty hobbies include:
Working on creative pursuits stimulates parts of the brain that you may not use very much otherwise. The activity can also help you work on fine and gross motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination and concentration.
Plus, crafting is expressive. You put yourself into every project that you create.
When you’re able to express yourself creatively, your self-esteem may improve. You might even feel more fulfilled in life.
How to Make Hobbies Fun for Seniors
If you’re a caregiver, friend, or family member of an elderly adult, you might wonder how you can encourage them to engage in fun activities. Here are some tips for making hobbies enjoyable for elderly people, especially if they’re dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, limited mobility, or dementia.
1. Stay Calm and Patient
Seniors tend to move more slowly as they get older. It can take them time to get from place to place or to put together information in their brain. Therefore, patience is a must.
If you’re helping someone with a hobby, stay calm. You don’t have to rush or put pressure on someone to get things done. Hobbies should be enjoyable. Although it would be nice to knit scarves for every family member for the holidays, that type of deadline might not be realistic for a senior.
2. Encourage Focus
Elderly adults may have trouble focusing when there are a lot of distractions. Help them find a time and space to do their hobby without being disrupted. Having a private area can help. Good lighting and comfortable seating may also allow them to concentrate.
3. Concentrate on the Process
The process is more important than the result whether you’re cooking up a new recipe or creating a work of art. Use the hobby as a starting point to bring up exciting memories or spark a conversation about someone’s childhood. When you take an interest in someone else’s hobby, you show them that it’s important and help them build confidence surrounding the activity.
Many of these hobbies are ideal for seniors with limited mobility. Whatever new hobby you pick up, don’t get discouraged if you’re not good at it right away. A love of learning can keep your brain interested and active as you age. Enjoy the process and keep trying new things.