It’s no secret that people often find themselves busier after retirement than they were before. Without the 9-5 soaking up the best part of each day, seniors are free to pursue their own interests and take up just about whatever hobby they choose. Golf and gardening, arts and angling are great picks, but there are far less predictable outlets for older people than the tried-and-tested mainstays. Here are five less-travelled paths to full, satisfying days spent in the free pursuit of personal enjoyment:
1. Model building
Building models is a fantastic stress-reliever as it creates a calm personal space in which the builder can detach themselves from the world and peacefully progress through the typically lengthy and absorbing project of construction. There’s no lack of challenge, however. This is a particularly addictive hobby which tends to draw practitioners deeper, and producing more advanced models brings our research and planning abilities to bear. Working in miniature also trains hand-eye co-ordination and fine muscle control. At the end of the day (or year, as as the case may be), the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment borne from finishing a model is the greatest draw of this sedate and engaging pastime, and affords the perfect opportunity to show off your skills.
One of the most enjoyable forms of exercise we’ve invented so far, dancing is hardly an underconsidered activity. To dance as a hobby, however, is a little different. Aside from the obvious benefit of pure enjoyment, dancing regularly and learning new steps and techniques has been shown to improve confidence, to enhance bone and joint health and to free up muscles and reduce stress and tension. Dancing also improves balance and co-ordination, bolsters cardiovascular health and can be just as effective as a mental workout as it is as a physical activity. Learning difficult steps improves spatial reasoning and memory, while ‘free’ dancing without a formula to follow enhances creativity and promotes a flowing, exploratory type off thinking.
3. Learning an instrument
Learning an instrument is one of the most satisfying hobbies we can adopt. It can take mere days to learn a decent catalogue of tunes, but years to truly master the art. Music goes hand-in-hand with dancing, and many of the benefits are the same, but there are also advantages unique to instrumentalism. In particular, for those who have never played an instrument before, substantial growth occurs in the brain as new connections are forged and the brain learns to draw physical actions, recorded symbols and sensory experiences together into one cohesive whole in entirely novel ways. There’s always the opportunity for further challenge, but never any demand to constantly push ourselves; we can get as much enjoyment from simply sitting and playing an old favourite as we can from mastering (or even writing) a new piece.
4. Playing games online
More than half of social media users are over 55, and with this explosive growth in popularity, related offerings like the broad range of games offered by platforms such as Facebook have become the domain of senior players. These days there’s a roughly 50-50 gender divide and nearly a third of ‘gamers’ are over 50. Many of the most popular games these days are really just old favourites like Scrabble and Sudoku given new life in a more colourful form. These games aren’t ‘also’ popular with seniors; they revolve primarily around older demographics, with e.g. the majority of Facebook’s Lexulous (Scrabble) community being over 50. Memory, problem solving and mental agility all tend to improve through engagement with these games, but perhaps the greatest draw is simply the opportunity to play the same games we’ve enjoyed all our lives with a global audience of likeminded players.
Another hobby which is at once relaxing and exciting. Genealogy turns us into amateur detectives, diving into registers and often contacting distant relatives to build out our family’s history. The National Archives and General Register Office are great places to start, but there are also platforms like ancestry.co.uk which are purpose-built for the task and sometimes make their own helpful suggestions. DNA analysis company 23andMe can give you much more distant insights, tracing ancestor groups back over thousands of years and even telling you how much Neanderthal DNA you’ve inherited. One aspect which makes this hobby so satisfying is that it’s deeply personal and helps us to undertand our origins, solving a puzzle which our families will own forever.
By Oscar Hawes, Signature Content Contributor