Try something new this year! Pickleball is just one fun, social option that's gaining popularity with older adults.
The new year is a great time to make positive changes. There are so many new things to try that can add more fun, friends, and adventure to your life. The health benefits can be plentiful, as well.
The first step is to shush the voice in your head telling you what you should be doing or what you should enjoy. If something doesn't excite you, set it aside for now and try something else. What activities would you look forward to? What would shake things up in a way that brings you joy?
To Choose the Way Forward, Take a Look Back
It's common to leave favorite hobbies behind as we take on adult responsibilities. You know those knitting needles buried under old mail or the tennis racket gathering dust in your garage? You're in good company if you've barely noticed that 20 years have passed since you last touched them.
As you begin to think about taking up new hobbies, you may find that the things you once enjoyed don't sound fun anymore—or even physically possible! So what now?
Don't get stuck on memories of your former water-skiing days, for example. While acrobatics off the back of a speedboat may no longer be feasible (and if they are, good for you!), it's likely that you can recreate some of the qualities you liked about that experience. Was it being on the water? Was it being physically active or spending time with friends? Make a list of the things you enjoyed about your previous hobbies. Don't edit yourself. Just get it all down, then read through your list and circle the words that still grab your interest.
Starting from there, read on to find suggestions for new things to try this year.
Do you like using your hands or working with tools? How about using your voice or telling stories? Creative arts bring more beauty into the world, with the added benefit of keeping your brain sharp. Older adults who take part in regular acting classes stand to improve their memory, comprehension, and problem-solving skills. Music, dance, and other creative activities may offer the same benefits.
Here are some ways to get creative—alone or in local classes and groups:
- Find a local community theater group. Whether you're a Shakespeare fan or a comedian, there's a stage for you—or a set that needs building.
- Take up a new craft, such as woodworking, ceramics, or collage. Pick up a paintbrush or a charcoal pencil. You can find teachers and classes for all levels of skill and experience—including none!
- Learn to cook. Or, if you're already an expert in the kitchen, why not try a new type of cuisine?
- Take up gardening. Why not request a plot in a local community garden? The American Community Garden Association supports a network of community plots to stimulate social interaction, beautify neighborhoods, and produce nutritious food.
- Join a choir, band, or local orchestra. Can't play an instrument? It's never too late to learn!
Games, puzzles, reading, and learning are ideal lifelong hobbies as you can do them alone or in groups, or even online. They also feed your brain in some unexpected ways. The National Institute on Aging says mentally stimulating activities may improve memory and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Get your brain buzzing by:
- Playing card games. Bridge clubs are still popular, and canasta groups are fairly common now, too. You can look on the Internet to find folks nearby who are interested in card game groups, or look for postings at your local community or religious center.
- Joining a book club. Ask at your local library or bookstore or browse local book club listings online.
- Taking a class. Many colleges let older adults audit classes for free.
- Traveling. Nothing stimulates learning quite like visiting a new part of the world—and preparing for a trip by reading about options, poring over maps, and studying a new language and culture is brain-food in itself.
Your time and energy can make a real difference in so many lives. Think about groups or causes that matter most to you. Animals? Children? Politics? The environment?
You'll find an abundance of opportunities at:
- Animal shelters
- Meal kitchens
- Mentoring programs
- Political and environmental action groups
National organizations such as VolunteerMatch.org can help match you with opportunities that meet your interests. Local churches are another great place to start.
Physical activity is good for us, from our brains down to the bones in our toes. Regular exercise can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, depression, cognitive decline, and dementia. Experts recommend getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Finding a daily walking group is a great solution, but why not try something totally new?
Fun, new things to try might include:
- Yoga or tai chi. Both support physical health and mind/body connection.
- Pickleball. This small-court racket sport combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong, and it's gaining popularity among older adults. The USAPA can help you find places to play in your area.
- Dancing. Try something new! Think ballroom, salsa, or even hip-hop. Dancing classes are a perfect activity to share with a partner—and a great way to meet new friends.
- Jazzercise, Zumba, and water aerobics. These are all great options, and if you love the pool and are feeling adventurous, why not try water ballet?
Focus on Fun
Now that you've got some ideas to pique your interest, start connecting with resources in your community. If you're interested in more social connection, invite a friend to join you. Perhaps you'd like to invite your dog along to your weekly hiking group. If your social calendar is too full already—honor that! Activities that offer more alone time may be just what you need.
Remember, this new year project isn't about what you should do . . . it's about what you want to do.
National Institute on Aging, Participating in Activities You Enjoy—More Than Just Fun and Games
National Institute on Aging, Preventing Alzheimer's Disease
American Academy of Family Physicians, Nourish Your Brain
AARP, Life Reimagined