From our friends at 'A Place for Mom'
We already know that a healthy lifestyle is a major factor in living a long life; but new studies show that having hobbies for seniors and staying socially active are equally important.
It has long been known that a nutritious diet, exercise and positive health choices all contribute to helping seniors feel more energetic. In fact, emerging research into longevity and good quality of life indicates that mental and social activity are just as critical as physical activity when it comes to healthy aging. Hobbies, leisure activities, and a rich social network are factors that correlate with living longer and avoiding isolation.
Healthy Hobbies for Seniors
Here are 11 healthy hobbies your aging loved one might want to consider:
1. Creating Art / Doing Crafts
More than providing something fun and artistic to stimulate the brain, creating art and doing crafts can also be soothing and cathartic. From painting, sculpting and scrapbooking to photographing, knitting or sewing — art is one of the best activities seniors can practice. Even better, art can also be done as a social activity with friends or family, so that mingling happens while stimulating the mind and soul. Engaging and fun, art is a great activity at any age, but is especially helpful and rewarding for retired seniors who have time and need activities to keep their minds alert. Art therapy is even used to help stimulate the brain, stir memories and give those with dementia a better quality of life.
If your loved one is still able to volunteer and does not suffer from cognitive decline, volunteering at the local department store, fundraising event, local association or senior center can provide not only great socialization, but also self-worth. Often when seniors retire and lose purpose, social and physical decline can happen; which is why staying engaged in the community is even more important. Feeling helpful is an important human emotion that helps keep seniors stimulated, rather than depressed or bored in monotonous day-to-day that can happen in the latter years.
If your loved one suffers from a disease such as osteoarthritis, where the cartilage wears down between the joints and causes pain, swimming is likely their easiest form of exercise. Exercise is often recommended for people who suffer from osteoarthritis, but traditional exercise, such as walking or aerobics, can also be painful. Since swimming takes the pressure off the joints, it is one activity that they can participate in without aggravating their condition.
Swimming regularly can also help your senior loved one improve not only their cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and balance, but also give them greater muscle tone, better posture and less muscle tension. Swimming is also a great way to boost energy through natural fitness endorphins, that are easy on the joints, and also fun! If your loved one goes to a public pool or gym or is enrolled in a water aerobics program geared toward seniors, they also get the opportunity to meet other people, interact and socialize.
Walking is a tremendously good activity for senior citizens. It’s cheap, it’s simple and almost anybody can do it and it. Walking has a multitude of health benefits for everyone, but is especially helpful for seniors as the activity helps maintain mobility and independence. From walking at the mall, around the park, at the local health club and even in independent and assisted living communities; there’s no activity that offers an inexpensive way to help seniors stay in shape. Walking with loved ones and friends is even a more fun and healthy option for seniors, to increase their socialization.
5. Playing Games / Cards
From playing Solitaire to Bridge to Scrabble, cards and games are an excellent way for seniors to keep their minds’ sharp. In fact, research has shown that adults who enjoy mentally stimulating games may have bigger brains and sharper thinking skills than their peers. Higher education has been linked to decreased risk of cognitive decline. Researchers theorize that well-educated people have better connected synapses in their brain, which also helps compensate for the havoc wreaked within the brain by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Critical thinking and crossword puzzles are also great ways to keep the brain fit.
Dancing is not only fun, but is also a great way for seniors to exercise and socialize. Dancing can improve senior balance, gait and overall body functioning, while also helping to reduce the risk of falls, fractures and immobility. Beyond those reasons, a study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that ballroom dancing was associated with a lower risk of dementia. The researchers believed that the mental challenge of following complex dance steps and moving in time with the rhythm of the music are responsible.
Gardening has many health and therapeutic benefits for older people. It’s not only an enjoyable form of exercise, it also increases levels of physical activity and helps increase seniors’ mobility and flexibility. It encourages use of motor skills while improving endurance and strength and even reduces stress levels by promoting relaxation. Gardening also provides stimulation and interest in nature and the outdoors. Many senior living communities offer gardening cubs for residents as the hobby is definitely a positive and popular hobby that helps promote resident happiness.
8. Practicing Yoga
Yoga can provide many physical and mental benefits to an elderly person. From minimizing stress and hypertension to helping to strengthen bones and build balance, yoga is a great hobby for seniors. Many senior centers, athletic clubs and senior care communities offer yoga for the elderly since the meditations offer so many wonderful benefits.
There are many health benefits for seniors who golf. From improving flexibility, ease of motion and strength to also increasing happiness, socialization and an active lifestyle, golfing is a favorite hobby for many seniors. Since people can golf their entire life, it’s an excellent hobby to keep through the years that provides not only satisfaction, but also helps seniors keep hand-eye coordination and improves mood. Golfing is a great hobby to keep your elderly loved one stimulated and happy.
10. Caring for a Pet
Pets provide a comfort system and actually produce a chemical chain reaction in the brain that helps to lower levels of of the stress-inducing hormone, cortisol, and increase the production of the feel-good hormone, serotonin. In fact, pets have been shown to reduce blood pressure and stress levels in humans and can actually help lower cholesterol, fight depression and help protect against heart conditions. All great reasons for seniors to have a pet!
Learn some of the best dog breeds for seniors.
11. Visiting Family and Friends
Visiting family and friends is one of the most important past-times for seniors as these catch-ups help combat senior isolation; one of the leading causes of mental and physical decline. Social isolation and loneliness have been associated with increased risk for depression, high blood pressure mental decline, and more. Visiting with family and friends not only helps to strengthen family bonds and heritage, it’s also important for happiness. After all, humans are wired to interact and socialize, and they especially need these interactions as they age and sometimes lose spouses and social circles. One of the most important parts of life is about human interaction, emotional connections and having a reason to live.
Stronger Seniors Chair Exercise for Seniors