21 Fun Hobbies and Activities for Seniors
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The thought of going into retirement may seem like you’re giving up a big chunk of your identity–but actually, quite the opposite is true. Rather than seeing retirement as being a time in which you’re living with a weaker sense of purpose in life, think of it as a period where you have additional free time to use however you want.
One of the best ways to stay young at heart is to engage in activities that you really enjoy doing. Plenty of research has been done on the benefits of having a hobby, and its ability to support healthy aging certainly should not be overlooked.
People over 65 spend an average of 10 hours a day either sitting or laying down, making them the most sedentary age group. And while increasing health limitations can restrict one’s ability to get out and do certain types of exercise, there are still hobbies that you can enjoy that can help you stay active.
The National Institute on Aging reports that there are many benefits that seniors can gain by devoting some time to doing an activity or engaging in a hobby. Some of these benefits include:
Depending on your interests, there are a lot of options seniors have when looking for a hobby or new activity to enjoy.
In this article, we will look at 21 fun hobbies and activities for seniors that are laid-back and easy to enjoy. But first, let’s look at some tips for finding the right hobby for you or your aging loved one.
What You Will Learn
- How to Find the Right Hobby
- 21 Fun Hobbies and Activities for Seniors
- 1. Writing
- 2. Volunteer
- 3. Learn How to Play an Instrument
- 4. Walking
- 5. Join a Book Club
- 6. Gardening
- 7. Be a Citizen Scientist
- 8. Genealogy
- 9. Bird Watching
- 10. Crafting
- 11. Play Games
- 12. Play Solo Games
- 13. Perform
- 14. Teach
- 15. Swimming
- 16. Care for a Pet
- 17. Yoga
- 18. Photography
- 19. Learn Origami
- 20. Go to Museums
- 21. Learn a New Language
- Final Thoughts on Hobbies for Seniors
How to Find the Right Hobby
Whether you’re a senior who is looking for something new to do or you know someone who is among the 25% of people over 65 who are socially isolated, you will be able to find a fitting hobby much more easily if you consider your (or their) interests and what you want to get out of a pastime.
Mobility limitations and impairments may limit seniors from looking for a new hobby or activity to get involved with, however, this can result in reduced social interaction, cognitive stimulation, and physical activity, which can lead to rapid mental and physical regression and a higher susceptibility to developing age-related diseases. Engaging in a hobby can hinder the development of age-related ailments and help promote a positive attitude about life.
It’s perfectly fine if you start a hobby and realize it’s not right for you. Keep up your determination to find an activity that suits you and things will eventually fall into place.
Here are 21 suggestions to get you started.
21 Fun Hobbies and Activities for Seniors
You can choose to write about anything that you want, from creating a work of fiction, writing poetry, or even writing about your life’s achievements. No matter what you decide to write about, this hobby is a great way to find a sense of meaning and fulfillment in life.
This is a beneficial hobby for seniors because writing helps stimulate the brain and it keeps your mind sharp. In fact, a study done by the American Academy of Neurology found that writing can prevent age-related brain shrinkage and reduce the rate of memory decline by 32%. Furthermore, writing helps keep hand-eye coordination skills in good condition, which is an important part of reducing your risk for falls.
Writing can be a great creative outlet for seniors, whose experiences through the years can also serve as a substantial source of knowledge to help younger generations prepare for their future.
One hobby that seniors often take on is volunteering. In fact, in 2018, the Corporation for National and Community Services found that seniors contributed 2.2 billion hours of volunteering in the U.S., which made up for a little over 30% of all volunteer service in the country.
One reason that volunteering is a great option for seniors is that, according to studies, seniors who volunteer experience lower rates of depression, higher levels of overall well-being, and even reduced mortality rates. Volunteering can help reduce stress, offer a sense of accomplishment, and help improve seniors’ confidence and sense of purpose as they transition into retirement.
There are endless opportunities to give back to your community, many of which allow for you to socialize with people who share similar interests. One volunteer opportunity that many seniors take on is tutoring elementary students with their reading, which also helps seniors play a rewarding mentoring role. Another volunteer option could be at a local arts center where you may be able to benefit from free admission to performances and galleries.
Whatever you choose, organizations are often more in need of people’s time than they are money, so finding an organization or position that is important to you and getting involved can be an invaluable gift for others.
3. Learn How to Play an Instrument
Retirement is a great time to learn how to play an instrument, and an increasing number of seniors are reaping the benefits of incorporating more music into their lives. Learning how to play an instrument requires the use of multiple areas of the brain in addition to hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Furthermore, if you can find a group of people to play music with, you can increase your social interaction, which can help boost your emotional well-being.
Many community centers offer music classes that are made for seniors, allowing older adults to interact with each other while sharing their love of music. Some common instruments that seniors learn how to play include the ukulele, harmonica, and piano, as these instruments are easy to learn, require less mobility than others, and don’t require a large financial commitment (unless you’re buying a piano).
Playing and listening to music can have a positive impact on seniors’ emotional health and wellbeing while reducing stress and anxiety. Organizations such as the NAMM Foundation offer programs for people of all ages and abilities to support music-making and its ability to allow people to be creative while using all parts of their brain in collaboration. Through creative inspiration and unspoken communication, learning how to play music is a unique hobby that offers benefits to people of all ages.
A great way for older adults to get some exercise is to go for walks. Whether this is something you want to do alone to give you some time to engage in self-reflection while walking at your own pace, or you want to grab a walking buddy to socialize with, this hobby undoubtedly offers a ton of mental and physical health benefits. Some benefits to taking a friend along include:
Walking for exercise can help seniors live independently for longer, but it doesn’t have to be strenuous in order to offer benefits such as these. Whether you’re going for a long walk at a steady pace or you do some shorter bursts of speed walking or walking through hills, this hobby allows you to gain the benefits of being outside while also keeping your body in top physical shape.
There is a low barrier to entry for this hobby, as all you really need is a good pair of walking shoes. And don’t let it stop you from taking up walking as a hobby if you use a cane or a walker. You can use these tools to help improve your balance and reduce the amount of weight that you’re putting on your joints–because that’s what they’re there for!
5. Join a Book Club
If you enjoy reading, you can make the experience even more rewarding by joining a book club. Book clubs always include some socializing during the meetings, which will help you get to know new people in a laid back setting. This hobby can also help you relate to others as you talk about whatever book that has been chosen, and it may help you understand the book better to get different people’s perspectives on it.
Joining a book club can also introduce you to books that you wouldn’t otherwise read, which may help you uncover an interest you didn’t know you had. This is also a great option for a hobby because it’s inexpensive–or free if you are a member of a local library.
Whether your book club reads fun books and has relaxed discussions, or they focus on more serious books with more intensive analyses, simply getting together with others on a regular basis will be fun.
Doing some work in the garden is a great way to stay active during your golden years. While you may not think of it as such, gardening is an effective low-impact workout that uses muscles from head to toe, plus it gives you the added benefit of being outside.
Studies have shown that gardening for just half an hour a day is a great way for seniors to meet their body’s physical activity needs. This activity can help reduce your blood pressure, improve your mood, increase your body’s levels of vitamin D, and help decrease stress.
Many neighborhoods or counties also have garden clubs where people who enjoy gardening come together. Garden clubs do various things such as hosting flower shows and giving garden tutorials for projects that aim at bettering the landscape of your community. Garden clubs help people share knowledge, meet other gardening enthusiasts, and learn new things about the craft.
7. Be a Citizen Scientist
This is a unique hobby that many people may not be aware of! Often, organizations need help with observing and analyzing people’s surroundings–and as long as you have access to a computer, you can engage in this fascinating hobby!
A citizen scientist is someone who participates in scientific research in collaboration with organizations to increase knowledge in some way. Through this practice, people can share information and contribute to various data monitoring and collection projects and programs. Scientists and researchers work with citizen scientists to help advance what we know about the world through data that can be gathered by citizens.
Citizen scientists come from various backgrounds and have a wide range of expertise, but modern technology has allowed this practice to be very accessible and valuable for today’s research practices. Some examples of projects for citizen scientists include wildlife-monitoring, water level observation, bird and nest observation, air quality monitoring, and analyzing images of specific forests, etc.
Zooniverse, a web portal operated by the Citizen Science Alliance, is the largest platform for this practice, with over a million citizen scientists worldwide who focus on subjects such as climate, language, medicine, and social science. Much of the information gathered by citizen scientists would not otherwise be practical to gather, which would abandon the opportunity for new discoveries and useful sets of data that are used by the research community.
With so many online resources available, genealogy has perhaps become more popular than ever. Researching one’s family history is a great pastime to help improve cognitive function and could even introduce you to some distant relatives you wouldn’t otherwise meet.
This is a popular hobby that can mostly be one in the comfort of your own home. Learning about the stories, connections, and names of your ancestors can help spark discussions with other family members, regardless of their age.
There are a handful of ways you can look into your family’s history online on sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. You can also look into your background by ordering a test kit from 23andme.
9. Bird Watching
Many people who once enjoyed hiking and camping still want to spend time outdoors, but without the pressure of moving quickly on a hike. One option that retirees often find joy in is bird watching because it allows people to enjoy the outdoors and go for a walk at their own pace while still being mindful of their surroundings.
You can still travel to your old hiking spots to go birding, or you can stay closer to your home. You can also choose to go by yourself or go with a group to add some socialization into your day.
With birds’ unique voices, feather patterns, colors, and various behaviors, birds allow people to connect with nature and their local ecosystems by watching them. If you pick up this hobby, you may start to pay more attention to other things in nature as well.
Finally, this is an excellent hobby for seniors because it allows you to exercise your reflexes while you focus on the bird and try to identify its species.
Art therapy is a common form of treatment used for seniors to help decrease their anxiety and increase their hand-eye coordination. Some psychologists have even compared the impact of doing crafts to the calming effects of meditation. This means that seniors may find it therapeutic to create crafts such as knitting, painting quilting, or clay making.
There are frequently clubs associated with such crafts. Quilting enthusiasts have gotten together for generations to trade patchwork, ideas, and new patterns. Some organizations such as The Modern Quilting Guild host national events, however, there are also smaller clubs on a more local level that you can likely find at a senior center near you where all skill levels are invited to participate.
If you feel more connected to painting, this hobby is often used in therapy and recovery. Working with watercolors, oil paints, and other types of paint to create art can inspire playfulness, improve focus, and help seniors focus on their hand-eye coordination, making this a great creative hobby for seniors to engage in.
11. Play Games
Finding others to play games with is an effective way to improve socialization. Engaging in friendly competition through games like bridge and chess with friends or at a senior center can help keep social anxiety at bay by keeping retirees connected with a common hobby. Having a group of friends to regularly play games with can reduce symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness.
Playing board games also offers many health benefits, such as stress relief, reduced memory loss, and reduced symptoms of depression. Playing board games can enhance memory formation and help keep cognitive function sharp, plus they tend to be calming, which can relieve stress and reduce blood pressure. Finally, games often require the use of fine motor skills and coordination, which is an important practice for older adults.
For example, playing chess has a lot of benefits for seniors. Chess helps seniors in many domains of their lives because it engages problem-solving skills, dexterity, and helps build social relationships. Playing against various opponents and analyzing moves lets seniors make new friends while also enhancing their skills.
12. Play Solo Games
You don’t have to have a group of people together to benefit from playing games. Many seniors enjoy doing crossword puzzles, putting together jigsaw puzzles, and doing sudoku. These games can help improve memory, release stress, and improve mental health.
Doing crossword puzzles has been a popular activity for seniors for years, as they help keep the mind sharp because they require the use of one’s memory to find the answers to clues by referring back to their knowledge and vocabulary. Crossword puzzles are also easy to come by, as they can be found in newspapers, magazines, and online.
There are many benefits to doing jigsaw puzzles, most of which lie in the fact that completing them requires your full attention. Some of these benefits include:
Playing Sudoku has similar benefits to the games mentioned above. This game also helps improve logic and concentration, promote a healthy mindset, reduces stress, and gives players a sense of accomplishment.
One of the great things about all of these games is that they’re inexpensive and easily accessible.
Performing in any way can help seniors improve their memory and attention span in addition to being an emotional outlet. Whether you choose to perform through acting, dancing, or singing, these are fun ways to stay social with other seniors who are also looking for a creative hobby.
Senior centers often have community theaters in addition to various types of performances, dancing lessons, and even play reading groups that you can explore.
Dancing in itself has several benefits, including:
What was your profession before retirement? Or what have you been passionate about for your whole life? Whatever knowledge you’ve gained throughout your life, you can teach it to those who are just getting started.
There are many adult education programs that hire evening instructors to teach part-time about hobbies such as cooking, speaking a second language, and sewing. Teaching about something that you really enjoy can not only be fulfilling, but it can also help bring in some extra cash.
If you live close to a gym that has a pool, taking swimming classes can be great for socialization and for your physical health. Getting some exercise is beneficial for seniors because it can help improve heart health, increase flexibility, and help maintain muscle strength. Exercise can also reduce one’s risk of becoming injured and improve mood and cognitive acuity.
Swimming is especially great for seniors because exercising in the water helps people get into shape without adding stress on the body. Swimming is gentle on the joints and classes are fun, as the instructors are often enthusiastic and play high-energy music.
Water exercises help engage all of the body’s muscle groups, providing a comprehensive workout. Here are some specific health benefits that seniors can get from swimming:
16. Care for a Pet
Because loneliness is something that many seniors face that can lead to depression, having a pet can offer companionship and give seniors more chances to get up and move around. The good thing about many breeds of dogs is that they mold their schedule to yours, meaning they’re never too busy to be by your side. Plus, if you get a smaller dog, you can easily take him along with you if you travel.
Having a pet can also help keep seniors in a routine. While caring for a pet is a responsibility, it doesn’t have to be extremely difficult. The routine of feeding and walking a dog can give seniors a sense of purpose and structure in their days.
Finally, caring for a pet can help you stay connected to the outside world, as you will need to take him to the vet, the groomers, and walk him along with other people walking their dogs.
You certainly don’t need to be in your 20s to practice yoga. This form of exercise is a great way for people of all ages to increase their flexibility and balance and maintain muscle strength. Seniors can especially benefit from practicing yoga because the breathing portion of this exercise helps increase lung capacity in addition to training the body to relax though intentional breathing.
There are a lot of styles of yoga that you can choose to practice, but it may be best to contact a yoga studio before attending a class to ask if they have instructors who are specially trained to work with seniors. Instructors who are knowledgeable about working with seniors have a better understanding of the appropriate intensities of the poses and the most effective mobility modifications.
Practicing yoga can help you feel relaxed, while also giving you lasting energy. And, doing yoga with a class can help you be a part of a group of like-minded individuals who also want to stay physically fit. All you need to get started is some appropriate clothing and a yoga mat (which is often provided by the studio).
Not only will taking up photography help you get outside and want to explore new places, it can also greatly benefit your cognitive function. One study found that seniors who have a sustained sense of engagement in learning skills that stimulate their working and episodic memory have enhanced cognitive function when compared to those who don’t. The study specifically looked at seniors learning how to do digital photography.
Photography also teaches seniors to use their creativity as they look around for new things to capture photos of. This can then lead to the exploration of different backgrounds, correct lighting, people’s expressions, etc.
Seniors may choose to take candid photos of family members, nature, or everyday sceneries. Even food photography has gained a lot of popularity. Starting a collection of your pictures and showing it off to others can also give you a big sense of satisfaction and a boost of dopamine.
19. Learn Origami
Origami is a type of art that really focuses on dexterity and fine motor skills. This low-cost hobby can help you create decorations for your home and decorations you can add to gifts or birthday cards.
While origami looks like it’s really difficult, it’s easy once you get the hang of it. Making origami is a great way of expressing yourself, be creative, and keep you engaged. Furthermore, research suggests that doing origami can help seniors improve various medical conditions.
Origami stimulates the brain as your hands are creating shapes by making simple folds.
This art is often used as an activity in senior centers, and specific modified Origami figures are taught to those who are suffering from Alzheimer’s because creating them can improve mental acuity, focus, and cognitive skills.
Doing Origami can also be relaxing and boost your self-esteem as you can gain a sense of satisfaction after creating new shapes. Furthermore, it can help improve a person’s 3D comprehension skills, imagination, and motivation to create new creations.
The only material that is needed is paper, and this hobby can be done anywhere. It can be done alone or with family, and seniors can even teach their grandkids how to make shapes with paper beyond paper airplanes, such as birds, fish, frogs, and flowers.
20. Go to Museums
Going to museums can be very interesting and it allows you to get some walking in for the day. Recent research has found that seniors who visit museums on a semi-regular basis report to have better mental and physical health than those who don’t.
Furthermore, those who create their own art and attend museums report lower rates of hypertension and better mental and physical functioning than seniors who neither create nor seek out art exhibits. Seniors who go to museums also experience reduced decline in cognitive and physical functioning. In these studies, cognitive health was measured by seniors’ own reports of memory and cognitive functioning, physical ability was measured through limitations in physical activity, and heart health was measured through self-reported rates of hypertension and blood pressure.
A recent survey has shown an increase in seniors’ attendance at museums over the past decade, however, not all seniors have access to museums where they live. For those who have physical or cognitive limitations or a lack of access to art venues, it’s important to seek out these local opportunities to explore art, as there are often smaller exhibits that people can attend.
21. Learn a New Language
It’s never too late in life to learn a new language, and doing so can boost cognitive function and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, research has shown that seniors who are bilingual show symptoms of Alzheimer’s an average of four years later than those who only speak one language. The researchers behind the study further concluded that being bilingual could potentially be one of the most effective tools in the fight against dementia–even more so than prescription medicines.
It can be exciting to learn a new language, as you can gain the ability to communicate with people who come from a very different background. You will also gain an appreciation and understanding of another culture and their values and belief system.
If you want to put your knowledge of a new language to use, there are many opportunities for seniors to study abroad, where you can go sightseeing and interact with locals while continuing to learn the language. This is a great excuse to travel and see the world while also embracing lifelong learning!
Final Thoughts on Hobbies for Seniors
Everyone has their own specific physical limitations and the amount of time they have to spare on new hobbies. What may be great for one person could be too much work for another. Be mindful of your schedule and your abilities and be careful not to take on more than you can handle.
Start by adding one or two of the hobbies mentioned above to your routine and see how it makes you feel. You can always switch some activities around or add more, as long as you're enjoying what you’re doing and it’s not adding stress to your life.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.