When she is not meeting up with her friends or watching the telly, my grandma spends most of her time knitting. It may seem like a dull and tedious hobby, but she loves it and is continually getting better at it.
Research has proven that seniors with hobbies are healthier, happier, sharper cognitively, and likely to live longer.
Whether you are looking for some fun and challenging activities for yourself, or want to introduce an elderly loved one to a new hobby, here are the best and most popular hobbies for seniors.
Why Is It Important For Seniors To Have Hobbies?
Loneliness, social isolation and boredom are major problems for seniors. They can lead to depression, anxiety and poor physical health.
Having hobbies is one of the best ways of combating loneliness and boredom, especially for seniors who don’t have a part time job or a business to run.
A hobby gives one a sense of purpose. It can also be fun and provide an opportunity to socialise.
Some hobbies like hiking or swimming are great for your health and can help you maintain your strength and flexibility.
The 10 Best Hobbies For Seniors
All the hobbies we’ve picked are generally safe for elderly people. Of course, you should consult your doctor before engaging in any activity that you are concerned might be dangerous.
For instance, some seniors may be sensitive to paints, which can make artwork less than ideal as a hobby. Other seniors may not be in the best physical condition to engage in outdoor activities such as hiking.
It’s also important that you pick a hobby you or your loved one likes. They need to have fun while engaging in it. Otherwise, it will not be sustainable and can even lead to negative outcomes such as high stress levels.
Start with a single hobby, then see if you can add a couple others on top. But be careful not to exert yourself too much. You can balance an active hobby like swimming with a more relaxed one like reading books.
Now let’s look at 10 popular hobbies for seniors with tips on how to enjoy each hobby safely.
Spending time outdoors is relaxing and therapeutic. That’s not just me saying it, it’s a scientific fact.
Spending time in nature improves our moods as well as cognitive function — things like memory, concentration, problem solving and so on.
So a hobby that takes you outside is a great idea. You don’t have to go into the forest to enjoy the benefits of being outside.
Even a walk or jog around the neighbourhood or in the park is just as beneficial. On top of the above benefits, walking or jogging is also great for your physical health.
You become stronger, it improves your blood flow, helps regulate blood sugar, helps you sleep better (which has a gazillion other benefits on its own) and it’s also good for your brain.
It’s crucial that you do these activities within your physical capability. If necessary, consult your doctor, a trainer or physiotherapist for guidance.
If you cannot jog, a brisk walk also does wonders for your health. If walking fast is also a challenge, a slow stroll also has its benefits. Use a cane or walker if you need extra support.
Tip: If your loved one has dementia, make sure they are safe when they go outdoors. You can have them walk within a restricted area, accompany them outdoors or have them carry a smartphone or GPS tracker.
2. Hiking & Camping
If you want to really get outdoors, consider taking up hiking and maybe even add camping to the mix.
Note that hiking is more physically demanding compared to walking in the park or around the neighbourhood. So make sure you can handle it.
That said, you can find easy senior-friendly hiking and walking trails. Remember to carry essential outdoor and emergency gear like a raincoat, GPS tracker and snacks.
Camping is also a great outdoor hobby for seniors. Look for campsites you can easily hike to (requires carrying a backpack) or drive to a campsite in a vehicle or motorhome.
By the way, if you can find other people to hike and go camping with, that’s even better. There’s safety in numbers and it’s also a great opportunity to socialise.
If you prefer a more relaxed outdoor hobby, consider birdwatching. All you need is a decent pair of binoculars and a field guide to help you identify the various birds.
You can birdwatch at the park, at a national park or nature reserve or on your daily walks.
See if there’s a birdwatching community in your area. They may introduce you to additional birdwatching sites. You’ll probably also make a friend or two.
If you cannot go outside, you can also birdwatch right at home from your window. Get a bird feeder to attract birds.
If you have a garden, leave out several birdfeeders, grow some bird-friendly plants, provide fresh water and put up a bird house.
Here’s a helpful video on how to attract birds to your backyard.
By the way, you can develop additional hobbies from birdwatching. Get a camera and start bird photography or get a drawing book and start sketching birds.
If walking, hiking or jogging is hard on your knees or feet, jogging is an excellent alternative.
It is a low impact exercise that has many of the health benefits of other workouts including heart health and stronger muscles.
If this is your first time swimming or if it’s been a long time since you swam, definitely work with an instructor.
You can easily find a swimming class for seniors near you. These classes involve just swimming or additional exercises such as water aerobics, water walking, or aqua zumba.
If you are looking for something to do during those quiet moments when you are alone at home or at the park, I highly recommend reading.
Reading, any type of reading, keeps your brain sharp and can be a source of entertainment.
You can read novels, non-fiction books, magazines, newspapers or even articles online. A Kindle is a great idea if you want something lightweight you can carry around wherever you go.
If you want a social aspect to reading, look for a book club near you. Find one specifically for seniors.
Tip: If you are not able to buy books, your local library has tons of them that you can read and borrow for free or at a very low price.
Writing also keeps your mind sharp and can help improve memory and slow down the effects of dementia.
I recommend exploring different types of writing to see which one you like most. Start by keeping a diary or journal. Write about your day, how you feel and notable events that happen.
You can also try your hand at fiction writing — short stories or an entire book.
If that’s not your thing, non-fiction writing is also an option — it can be a book or short essays/articles. You can even open a blog and post your articles there for other people to read.
It doesn’t have to be vegetables. You can plant whatever you want – flowers, trees, shrubs or even bonsai trees inside your home.
Gardening provides a good challenge that’s good for your mental and physical health. If you are doing it in your backyard, it’s also a good opportunity to get outside.
You can even make friends out of gardening. Find a community garden near you and join.
Whether it’s card games, bingo, puzzles, or chess, games are both fun and mentally challenging activities for seniors.
They are also versatile — you can easily find games to play on your own at home or join a group for a round of bingo. You can also find games to play online on your phone or computer.
It’s especially fun to try a new game. It gives you a good mental challenge, which is great for memory, concentration and overall brain health.
Games also include active sports like soccer, volleyball, tennis and others. These are highly beneficial for your physical health and you can also get to meet new people.
9. Music Instrument
Research has found that seniors who learn a new skill experience a significant improvement in overall cognitive ability.
A new skill can be anything like computer programming, photography or a music instrument. I recommend looking for a class or music centre near you that caters specifically to seniors.
If that’s not possible, see if you can find a music trainer who works with the elderly.
10. Arts & Crafts
Even if you’ve never sketched anything before, drawing is easier than you think. You don’t have to be an expert; just have fun with it and see how good you can get.
You can also try your hand at other crafts like painting, mosaics, pottery, knitting, string art and so on. Try a few different activities to see which ones you enjoy most.