Hobbies and Activities Help Maintain Health and Well-Being in Older Adults

The research is clear. You need activity and fun when you are retired. It is never too late to pick up a hobby and learn something new and fun. Being active benefits your physical and mental health.

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Hobbies and Activities Help Maintain Health and Well-Being in Older Adults
6 Min Read January 17th, 2023

Many of us work hard to achieve an enjoyable retirement, but many don't know what to do once that day comes around and we no longer have to get up and go to work every day. 

Your physical and mental health is improved by engaging in hobbies, allowing you to learn new things. Many people seek new challenges, and striving and achieving these challenges has many benefits and is enjoyable.

Research published by the American Psychological Association indicates that middle-aged and older adults, especially women who give up on challenging tasks, may be more susceptible to cognitive impairment as they age.

Jeremy Hamm, Ph.D., of North Dakota State University, points to the potential importance of continuing to engage in mentally stimulating activities in retirement. 

There are many opportunities to engage in mentally stimulating activities in retirement, such as reading or playing word games.

Plus, research has shown that engaging in leisure activities was associated with a reduced risk of depression. Studies show that people who have a garden or access to the outdoors or visit parks and nature often sleep better and have lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Devoting Time to a New Hobby Provides Benefits

Your mental health and general welfare can be improved by devoting time to a new hobby you enjoy. We all need the incentive to get out of bed in the morning. The best time to attempt anything new is always now. If you try something you don't like, you can always move on to something else.

There is a downside to aging. A Pew Research study shows that about one-in-four adults ages 65 and older report experiencing memory loss. About one in five say they have a serious illness, are not sexually active, or often feel sad or depressed. About one-in-six report they are lonely or have trouble paying bills. One in seven cannot drive. One in ten say they feel they aren't needed or are a burden to others.

However, being active can overcome some downsides of aging when you retire. Plus, you may delay some of the challenges of aging by remaining active and enjoying activities and hobbies after you retire. 

By contrast, the Pew research showed that among adults 65 and older, fully 60% say they feel younger than their age, compared with 32% who say they feel exactly their age and just 3% who say they feel older than their age.

Could this be, in part, the difference between being active and enjoying retirement? Perhaps. People need passion in life, no matter their age. What are your passions? 

Retirement can be the best years of a person's life, but it can also be challenging for some to fill the days. If you're a senior looking for a new hobby to pick up in retirement, in your 50s thinking about retirement planning, or have a loved one who is over age 50, some of these hobbies may be useful.

Learning an Instrument

Do you enjoy music? Despite what some people may say, there is always time to learn a new instrument. And what better way to spend your free time than learning a new skill? Some people fear they've missed their opportunity to play an instrument if they have yet to learn one, but there's no bad time to devote yourself to music.

Music training makes unique demands on our brains. Embracing music and learning to play an instrument can benefit you well into your golden years. The impact is still noticeable whether you've been playing music for years or just starting to pick up an instrument in retirement. Plus, there are more learning resources for music beginners than ever before, from instructional tutors to teaching apps.

Volunteering

While retirement should be a time to relax and live a work-free life, many retirees miss the responsibility and duty of a job once it's gone. Volunteering is one hobby many seniors pick up in retirement to fill the void their job has left.

Volunteers report higher physical health than non-volunteers, according to research on the benefits of volunteering for persons 60 and older in terms of physical and mental health. Additionally, studies have found that volunteering lowers rates of anxiety and sadness, particularly in those 65 and older.

Angela Thoreson, a licensed independent clinical social worker in Psychiatry & Psychology at Mayo Clinic in Austin, Minnesota, says that volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine.

By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. Reduced stress further decreases risk of many physical and mental health problems, such has heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness.

Whatever your interests and abilities are, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities. These can include handing out food and clothes at a shelter, helping at a library, or even tutoring young kids. Volunteering enriches the soul and keeps many seniors busy and fulfilled in retirement.

Pro-Tip: Do you love nature? Many national and state parks regularly use senior volunteers as tour guides, educational instructors, and mentors for young nature enthusiasts. 

Restoring Classic Cars

One of the classic hallmarks of baby boomers is an affinity for cars. If you've always loved old cars and consider yourself a gearhead, retirement is an excellent opportunity to use that love and skill by restoring a classic car!

There are different levels of classic car restoration, from simply getting a vehicle running again to making it look brand new. Car restoration can be a sizable and expensive project. Still, every restorer will tell you there's no better feeling than seeing an old car return to its former glory.

If you are not a "gearhead," many people enjoy car shows that you can find nationwide. People show off their classic cars, fully restored, which can bring back great memories. Going outdoors and walking to the classic cars will keep you happy and active.

Hiking

Staying active is a challenge for many people when they go into retirement. As our bodies naturally wear down, finding fun activities that help us stay fit and won't take a tremendous physical toll on us becomes more challenging.

Older adults will notice changes in their flexibility and balance over time. However, walking on slightly uneven ground challenges the joints in the feet and ankles and the core muscles that help seniors keep their balance.

Your heart rate may rise while walking on uneven ground, resulting in a more efficient workout. This is a significant health benefit, especially if you hike regularly. You can alter a hike by choosing alternate routes or lowering the pace to ensure that the proper quantity of blood is flowing through the body.

Hiking is one of the most popular hobbies for seniors because it's relatively easy on the body, gets retirees outside, and is an excellent way to connect with nature! If you've always enjoyed a nice walk and fresh air, consider hiking and visiting local parks filled with gorgeous trails and landscapes.  

Avoid Isolation. Enjoy Activity. Be Prepared for Retirement.

Engaging in interactive activities will reduce the health concerns in older adults related to social isolation and loneliness. Even something as simple as walking around the neighborhood can benefit an older adult. 

The advantages are innumerable. According to research, physical activity positively impacts one's health by lowering their risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, type two diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood cholesterol, some malignancies, and falling. 

The benefits of activities include improved weight management, stronger bones, muscles, and joints, more energy, relaxation, and restful sleep. Besides improving physical health, engaging in hobbies and exercise also improves mental health by reducing stress, preventing negative thinking, fostering social interaction, and boosting mood.

If you are already retired, don't sit by the TV all day. If you have a loved one who is older, encourage them to get active and enjoy activities and hobbies. You can join them in some of these activities yourself.

Retirement needs planning. Planning should include the following:

  • Finances

  • Hobbies and Activities

  • Family

  • Vacations

  • Dealing with declining health and long-term care

The ideal time to plan for retirement is before you retire. Be sure you think about how prepared you are for retirement. Where will you live? What will be the cost of living? Plus, how will you address the costs and burdens of long-term health care?

Long-Term Care Insurance can ensure you have access to quality care and reduce the worry and anxiety some people have as they get older. 

What Is Long-Term Care Insurance & What Does It Cover?

Few people want to place the burdens of caregiving on their adult children. Most people don't want to drain their assets by paying for expensive long-term care services. 

Aging happens. You can enjoy your future retirement. Take advantage of all the opportunities retirement provides.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

When is the best time to start planning for retirement? It is never too early; often, many people start "catching up" with retirement planning in their 40s. By the time someone is in their 50s, they should have clear plans for financing retirement.

Hopefully, you have put money aside for retirement. Money in tax-deferred accounts like a 401(k) will continue to grow. Unfortunately, too many people ignore one of the biggest risks we face with aging - the need for long-term health care.

One of the reasons people fail to consider the consequences of long-term health care is they don't want to need a nursing home and can't see themselves needing one. This ignores that most long-term care is NOT in a nursing home, and most need for care is not lying in bed in a facility.

People need help with daily living activities due to chronic illness, mobility issues, dementia, and frailty due to aging. You may need long-term health care only because you are old and frail. Most long-term health care is delivered in someone's home or in an assisted living facility -- not a nursing home.

Yet, the cost of long-term health care is skyrocketing nationwide. You might already know this if you helped an older parent find care. These costs will continue to rise in the decades ahead.

LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Find Your Location

A lack of family usually means that adult children step in and become your caregivers or decide the type of care you will get and which account to drain to pay for it.

Neither option is ideal.

Long-Term Care Insurance is a better solution for many American families.   Quality care is something you deserve. The ability to stay at home is desirable for most people. This is a choice you will have when you have guaranteed tax-free resources from an LTC policy.

Your loved ones will have the time to be family and not caregivers. The assets you worked hard to accumulate will be protected for your children and grandchildren -- not to mention they will be available for you and your spouse to use during retirement without fear or concern.

Most people get coverage in their 50s because of the lower costs and underwriting standards. 

Since the costs and underwriting standards vary dramatically between insurance companies, be sure to seek the help of a qualified specialist who represents the top companies, not just one or two.

A specialist will review your health in detail, family history, and other factors to provide you with accurate quotes from the top companies. Insurance rates are regulated, so each insurance company must file its products and pricing with the state's insurance department before being allowed to sell the product. However, premiums vary as much as 100%, and underwriting varies dramatically between companies.

LTC NEWS Resources Help with Research

LTC NEWS contains a wealth of resources and tools available when you start your research. These materials can be helpful to you as you conduct an analysis for your upcoming retirement and make arrangements for the expenses and burdens associated with growing older and experiencing failing health and aging issues.

Check out some of these tools:

Find all the resources here:

Resources for Long-Term Health Care Planning

Aging Parents Need Help Now?

Make sure your loved one uses their Long-Term Care Insurance if they are fortunate enough to have it. Delaying available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a good idea. Families sometimes postpone taking advantage of the benefits thinking they can save them for later.

If your parent or parents need quality care, arrange for it. LTC NEWS can be of help. We've put together a few guidelines to assist you on your journey.

Find help locating quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

Some people have a large portion of their savings in their homes, with no insurance or few other assets. With the help of reverse mortgages, you can find ways to pay for quality in-home care, pay for LTC Insurance, and even assist with cash flow during retirement.

Asking an expert with your questions will help you learn more. Mike Banner, a columnist for LTC NEWS and the host of the television program "62 Who Knew," will respond to your inquiries about long-term care, reverse mortgages, aging, and health.

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages

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