In our youth, we tend to look at hobbies as merely a source of entertainment, something secondary to do when the work day is done. We don’t appreciate their intrinsic value. Some of us don’t even have hobbies. We’re too busy doing more ‘important’ things to set aside a few moments to learn something new. We just can’t justify spending the time to do something we enjoy when there are so many other tasks crowding our calendar. Then, one day, we suddenly wake up and have time to fill, but nothing to fill it with. At this point in life, many seniors want to learn new hobbies but feel too old to do so. This is nonsense, however. It could even be considered internalized agism! Seniors are never too old to learn new hobbies; the benefits of doing so are even backed by science! Here’s how:
New Hobbies Provide Pain Relief to Older Adults
A study published in Clinical Rheumatology confirmed that walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, aerobics, and other exercise-based hobbies are effective at reducing seniors’ chronic pain and improving joint mobility and range of motion. Regular movement therapy (Tai Chi is a kind of movement therapy) has even been found to reduce pain and improve nerve function in seniors with peripheral neuropathy (which can be caused by diabetes, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases to name a few).
New Hobbies Help Seniors Express Themselves
As friends and family pass away and some older adults’ ability to get out and about declines due to health concerns, aging can become a lonely business. Having an outlet to express themselves is helpful to alleviate seniors’ loneliness! This self expression can be bolstered by several kinds of hobbies.
We tend to think that the brain-boosting benefits of music are only available to the pliable young minds of children. However, musical hobbies benefit brains of all ages. According to Jennifer Bugos from the University of South Florida, adults who received piano lessons between the ages of 60 and 85 had better memories, more verbal fluency, were better at making and keeping plans, and processed information more quickly than seniors who did not! All of these skills are essential for communication and self expression.
Other hobbies that could help older adults to share their thoughts more effectively and feel less socially isolated include learning to use social media and taking up web design (like Karen Weeks, owner of elderwellness.net).
Hobbies Renew Older Adults’ Sense of Purpose
Imagine waking up for 20 to 30 years, getting in your car, and then going to work somewhere where you know your actions make a difference. Perhaps, you’re a school teacher, nurse, or soldier… Then, upon retirement, you suddenly find yourself filling your time with tons of daytime television! You’d probably start feeling as if your actions no longer benefit anyone, not even yourself! That would be enough to make anyone feel a bit depressed.
Volunteering or donating crafts they create to those in need (such as knitting winter hats for the homeless) can help elders feel as if they are still contributing to their community and providing a value or service to society. Not only does this renew seniors’ sense of purpose, but it also improves their self-esteem.
New Hobbies Get Seniors Outdoors
Bird watching, geocaching, and gardening get seniors into nature. Being outdoors offers tangible physical benefits to individuals of every age. Such benefits include better blood pressure and pulse rate, less muscular tension, and lower production of stress hormones like cortisol. It also offers multiple mood benefits. Stanford Researchers found that, “people who walk for 90 minutes in nature (as opposed to high-traffic urban settings) “showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.” What’s more, prior studies have also found that spending time in nature ‘dampens’ anxiety symptoms and improves memory!
Music-Making May Help Seniors Maintain Their Mental Health
One study published by BioPsychoSocial Medicine found numerous evidence-based reasons for seniors to take up singing, including improved mental health evaluations cores, decreased cortisol levels, decreased tension, and more positive moods! These findings were true whether or not the seniors consider themselves to be good at or enjoy singing.
New Hobbies Help Seniors’ Aging Brains
For at least a decade, we’ve had evidence that learning new hobbies may be instrumental in staving off dementia symptoms in seniors. The authors of one study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias noted, “engaging in cognitively stimulating leisure activities in late life may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and overall dementia” The Pittsburgh-based researchers found that seniors who spent at least one hour per day on crafts or crossword puzzles were less likely to develop dementia later on.
So, which hobbies are the most helpful?
Well, that’s a bit of a trick question! Everyone is different, and no older adult should be forced to participate for hours in a activity that brings them little to no joy. Instead, the elderly loved ones in your life should choose activities they find interesting, and a full range of benefits will follow on its own!
Getting some resistance?
That’s normal, considering the omnipresent cultural prevalence of that old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. It can be a challenge to encourage your mom or dad to learn new hobbies, but it’s rewards are far-reaching. Researchers have discovered that the variety and novelty of new hobbies has a protective effect on cognitive health- all the more reason for seniors to try something new!
At First in Care we are dedicated to helping the loved ones in your life get the attention and support they need! This includes introducing them to and encouraging them to learn new hobbies. To request a free in-home consultation and learn more about the senior home care services we provide, visit our website www.FirstinCare.com.