Are seniors happier than their younger peers? According to studies outlined in the Atlantic, many retirees report being happier than respondents in their twenties and middle-aged years.
Research shows that happiness tends to follow a “U Curve” trajectory, starting high in the early twenties and dipping to its lowest during the forties and fifties. From there, happiness tends to steadily increase in the following decades – rising from the sixties all the way up to the nineties.
This isn’t to say that aging is always easy, or that seniors are a euphoric bunch. However, for many, the key to capturing that wave of happiness lies in finding a meaningful hobby, one that inspires passion and dedication and keeps the body strong. Read on for five hobbies that will keep you fit and feeling fabulous in your golden years.
1. Garden your way to health.
According to experts, playing in the dirt is spiritually fulfilling, and allows seniors to connect to their “primal state.” The experience of gardening also relieves stress, increases mental functioning, and provides lots of exercise. Plus, vegetable gardeners reap the benefits of eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet full of a rainbow of produce.
Gardening is great for seniors at all ages and skill levels. Something as simple as creating a container garden can connect you to nature and provide mental and physical stimulation.
2. Volunteer at a local museum or theater.
If you’ve always been a big lover of the arts or enjoy watching plays and concerts, consider volunteering at your local museum or theater. You’ll get to watch shows for free – plus, you’ll be supporting your local arts community and instilling a love for art in the next generation. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new friends and maintain a lifelong love of learning.
3. Get creative.
The health benefits of artistic participation are scientifically proven. Dr. Gene Cohen, director of George Washington University’s Center on Aging, Health and Humanities, conducted a two-year study with two groups of seniors. Half were involved in various arts programs, and the other half did no artistic activities. After two years, researchers concluded that seniors in the arts group reported better overall physical health and took fewer trips to the doctor than the seniors with no artistic involvement.
So, if you’d rather be the one on stage – or long to see yourself swirling paint around a canvas – consider taking up a creative hobby like drawing, dancing, learning to play the guitar, or singing. Having a hobby, especially a creative one that allows for self-expression and “me time,” is a healthy habit every senior should add to their daily routine. You don’t even need formal lessons. YouTube is packed with how-to tutorials for budding visual artists and musicians.
Artistic hobbies are also great for seniors dealing with alcohol and drug addiction recovery, because creativity provides therapeutic relief. The process of making art connects addicts to communities of like-minded individuals and becomes an emotional outlet for expression, stress relief, and contemplation.
4. Start swimming or stretching.
Low-impact exercises are great for seniors because they increase heart rate without putting undue stress on older joints. Yoga and pilates improve core muscles, increase balance, and force you to stretch, while water aerobics and swimming increase strength, burn calories, build cardiovascular endurance, and decrease anxiety. Plus, group exercise classes encourage camaraderie and hold participants accountable to an exercise routine. Most classes are inexpensive and have flexible time slots.
5. Read and write your way to happiness.
For seniors with reading lists a mile long, joining a book club is a low-key way to make new friends, discuss vital topics, and share in one of life’s great pleasures: sitting down with a great book – only this time, you’re reading (partially) in the company of new friends. If you love one particular genre like mystery or romance, try joining an online community dedicated to that particular area.
And don’t forget the health benefits of reading! Diving into a new novel improves mental agility, reduces stress, and preserves memory function. Writing has similar benefits, and seniors with a knack for creative expression should seek out a writing group focused on letter writing, fiction, or even journaling.
For even more healthy habits you should consider including in your daily routine, click here.
Stay active. Stay young at heart.
Do you need more convincing? Hobbies keep seniors sharp, healthy, and connected to their communities. Plus, trying new things keeps life interesting – and makes for great stories to tell the grand-kids.