Any activity that someone enjoys doing in their spare time for fun is a hobby- whether it’s gathering stamps, hiking, playing golf, or journaling. The elderly in particular have a lot of free time on their hands, and many find that picking up a new hobby or rediscovering an old one improves their quality of life.
Here are 4 reasons why that is the case.
Improved Brain Function
Unfortunately, brain function declines with old age because, with each passing year, the brain loses cells. Luckily, research has shown that keeping the mind active slows down this process.
How? When you engage in activities that are new and challenging, it creates new neural pathways in the brain. These neural pathways are what facilitate thinking, and remembering.
Take puzzles for instance. Regularly playing Sudoku, Jigsaw, crosswords, etc improves your cognitive function as you engage your mind with problem solving. Or, say you’re learning to play a new musical instrument, this also improves your cognitive function because your brain is having to learn new coordination, planning, and multitasking abilities.
Being elderly comes with certain stressors- such as money problems, health problems, and a decreased sense of purpose. Having a hobby can greatly relieve some of this stress.
When you engage in activities that make you feel happy and relaxed, levels of the stress hormone- cortisol- is lowered. Higher cortisol levels put you at risk of complications like muscle weakness, mood swings, and high blood pressure so it’s a good idea to embrace methods that decrease it; whether it’s listening to music or painting.
Plus, thanks to technology it’s more stress-free than ever to maintain a hobby. For example, with precision irrigation software you can water a garden on your phone anytime from anywhere.
Another unfortunate part of aging is loneliness due to things like retirement, and the loss of loved ones. Social isolation in the elderly has been linked to anxiety, a weakened immune system, heart disease, and cognitive decline.
Having a hobby is one of the easiest ways to get social interaction and combat loneliness.
When choosing hobbies for this purpose, stick to social hobbies rather than solitary ones like knitting or painting. Examples of social hobbies you can participate in include joining a book club, going to dance classes, playing cards, signing up for writing workshops, and forming a band.
Another major benefit of hobbies for the elderly is physical activity. Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of falls, improves joint function, helps to maintain muscle mass, decreases cardiovascular health risks, etc.
But strenuous exercising can be tedious and even dangerous in old age, so finding a hobby that requires some movement is a way to kill two birds with one stone. For example, if you enjoy walking, you’ll be able to get some exercise while also enjoying an activity you like.
Keep in mind that you should still check with your doctor before you start physically demanding hobbies.
Hobbies help to keep your mind active, relieve stress, provide social interaction and even get you moving. So, if you’re looking for something to do with your free time in your golden years, consider taking up a hobby. It just might be the best decision you ever make.