12 Unique Hobbies That Are Unexpectedly Perfect for Seniors
Many adults who are navigating the nuances of their golden years can experience a sense of loss in terms of engagement with activities that fill their days with purpose. What they may not be considering is that this stage in a person’s life is often the ideal time to take up a new hobby. From physical benefits to mental and emotional health advantages, engaging in an enjoyable hobby can offer seniors immense meaning and value.
As you acknowledge this reality and begin to think about what hobbies pique your interest as well as meet your individual needs, you might defer to senior staples like gardening, knitting and painting. And while these are certainly excellent choices if they suit your particular fancy, there are also some lesser-known options you may never have considered before.
To help you expand your horizons and get creative in the process of taking up a hobby at this extraordinary juncture in your life, here is a list of unique ideas. Have fun exploring!
Curious about your family tree? Interested in creating a record of your ancestry that can be passed down through the generations? Genealogy is becoming an increasingly popular hobby for seniors. With online knowledge-seeking services popping up in spades, there are ample opportunities for digging into your family history even if you might be limited by mobility barriers or long distances.
According to The National Institute on Aging, studies have found that older adults who learned a new hobby like digital photography had more memory improvement than those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities. Does picking up a camera and learning how to see the world through the artistic lens of photography sound like an exciting and worthwhile hobby for you?
Are you a fan of fermented grape varietals? Well, you can drink to good health because research indicates that moderate red wine consumption may lead to decreased HDL levels, or the “good cholesterol.” Turn your love for this age-old beverage into a hobby by practicing the fine art of winemaking. With a few inexpensive pieces of equipment (and a lot of patience!), you can learn to become an at-home vintner.
If you’re someone who finds great joy in appreciating nature’s special gifts, spending time with the birds could be just the thing for you. Check out some bird identification books, grab a pair of binoculars and head to the great outdoors for a close-up with this beautiful winged species. Consider starting a journal or scrapbook to track and log your avian adventures.
5. Second Language
Although many believe that seniors cannot learn foreign languages as successfully as younger adults or children, studies show that older adults do indeed have the capacity to learn a second language. In fact, bilingualism has been shown to positively affect the brain’s anatomy and play an important role in cognitive reserve, which may even help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. If you’re interested in a particular culture or part of the world, think about taking up the native language as an engaging hobby.
6. Musical Instrument
Research shows that music can boost mood, reduce stress and agitation, foster positive social interactions, coordinate motor function and facilitate cognition. Even in older adults who live with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the human brain naturally responds to music. Consider leveraging the healing power of music by learning to play a new instrument. It’s a hobby that can be enjoyed both alone and in the company of others.
Think ping pong is just for the youth to enjoy? Think again. Table tennis, aside from being both competitive and fun, offers incredible benefits to seniors, including improvements in hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, muscle strength and cardiovascular health. See if there’s a table tennis club in your area, or check out your community center for access to their equipment.
8. Scale Model Making
An insightful AARP article explains the benefits for seniors who make scale models as a fun hobby. “Not only does the activity provide much-needed leisure, which is beneficial in alleviating anxiety and depression, but it also enhances certain cognitive skills such as concentration, visual-motor skills, and executive functions,” says Dr. Andrea M. Macari, assistant professor of psychology at Suffolk County Community College. She explains that the skills used in scale modeling are the same ones that often decline with age. “So by practicing scale modeling, your actions are mitigating any decline of those skills.”
Are you a stargazer at heart? Awed by the magnitude and magnificence of outer space? With a decent telescope and some helpful astronomy literature, you can immerse yourself in the world of stars, planets, nebulae, galaxies and lunar or celestial bodies. There’s a rich history to be discovered in this hobby, with myths and legends attached to the various constellations.
10. Ballroom Dancing
According to Dr. Natacha Falcon, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with Rothman Institute Orthopaedics, ballroom dancing offers real health benefits to older adults. “One of the recommendations to decrease osteoporosis and strengthen your bones is weight-bearing exercise,” she says. “So ballroom dancing definitely comes into play there.” There’s also the emphasis on posture and positive cardiovascular effects. For many seniors, ballroom dance is an invigorating hobby.
11. Theater or Choir
While exploring any form of art is a great activity for aging seniors, the performing arts are particularly beneficial for boosting self-esteem, confidence and independence. Many choral groups are open to the public and welcome people of all ages and abilities. Another potential outlet is community theater, where seniors can play a variety of important roles both on and off the stage. Opportunities include everything from lead characters and ensemble parts to backstage and front-of-house duties, such as selling tickets or helping out with costumes.
The elegant art of calligraphy and hand-lettering can be a creative and relaxing hobby for seniors. If you think you’d like to try your hand at it, check out some online tutorials. There are even beginner worksheets you can download. Remember, practice makes perfect!
Ultimately, finding an enjoyable hobby is an important way to stay engaged in life and connected with others. To identify the activity that best meets your interests and abilities, consider making a comprehensive list of past and "bucket list" hobbies. Home improvement stores, craft shops, community centers and libraries are great places to find resources and classes. Some senior living communities also offer these types of programs on a regular basis.
About Elizabeth Bemis
In 1998, I drove past an assisted living community construction site, learned that it was part of United Methodist Homes and realized the next stop on my professional journey was to work for a mission driven organization. Soon after, I joined the team as Executive Director of our Middlewoods of Farmington community and later served as Regional Manager for the Middlewoods properties before accepting my current role as Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, walking, and love working alongside our staff, residents, and families to build strong communities that reflect the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.