Investing time, money, and energy into a hobby may have been unrealistic during those busy years building a career, family, and life – but as those responsibilities lighten up, now is the perfect time to reconnect with a hobby or start a new one altogether. Bonus Points: learning a new skill provides a stimulating challenge, which can be important in the battle against cognitive decline. We’ve rounded up some of the most popular hobbies for later life to spark inspiration.
Whether you aim to take the stage or play holiday music for your grandkids on the guitar, picking up an instrument is a great way to foster creativity, motor skills, cognitive function, and, most importantly, joy.
Research shows that music stimulates the brain and enhances memory in older people. The National Library of Medicine explains that some studies suggest that musical training in the older stages of life can mitigate the effects of the aging brain (for a review, see Wan and Schlaug, 2010). Verghese et al. (2003), in a follow-up study of older adults, observed that those who played a musical instrument were less likely to suffer from dementia than participants involved in other leisure activities like reading, writing, or doing crossword puzzles.
2. Art & Design
Maybe you spent your career crunching numbers, but that does not mean you’re incapable of creativity. Spending time in a creative state has many benefits ranging from mental health and mood to immune system and brain health – and now, as pockets of time reveal themselves to you in your day, it’s the perfect opportunity to dive in.
- Writing: Poems, songs, children’s books, short stories…maybe even a novel!
- Painting: Grab some supplies and dive in at home or find a local art studio that offers studio time or guided classes.
- Crafting: Start with a vision board and see where the ideas flow.
- Decorating: Start with an interest board and bring your vision to life at home!
Pick up a hobby that anchors you in the outdoors – studies have shown that physical activity outdoors can lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Another great resource is your local REI or L.L.Bean store which offers expert-led experiences.
The kitchen is a wonderful place to get creative and enjoy preparing meals and desserts “just because.” Discover new ingredients, flavors, and products by challenging yourself with new recipes. Turn it into an opportunity to connect with others by hosting a book club weekly with your new surprise dish.
Some of our favorite places for recipe inspiration:
- New York Times Cooking
- Half Baked Harvest
- Love and Lemons
- Cravings by Chrissy Teigen
- Instagram: @hilpereira, @rachlmansfield, @minimalistbaker and @judy.kim
If you’re uncomfortable in the kitchen, a great place to start is the Real Simple Cooking School – full of ideas, instruction, and seasonal staples for entertaining. Another great resource is your local Williams-Sonoma for in-store or virtual demos.
Traveling is an excellent hobby for adventure, activity, connection, and self-exploration. New people, places, foods, and activities take you as close to the edge of your comfort zone as you’re willing to go – and that’s often where the magic happens. If you plan it right, travel doesn’t have to be a pricey hobby – even local day or weekend trips can serve the same sense of wonder as an international flight.
- Off-Peak: Take advantage of retirement flexibility to book trips mid-week when rates are lower.
- Home Exchange: For longer trips, consider a home exchange or renting your property on Airbnb or VRBO to fund your stay in your destination.
- Eat Local: Do your homework and find the local spots to dine – look for “food tours” which blend guided tours with tastings from the best places.
- Document It: Start an Instagram or Blog to document your travels – whether you amass a following or not, you’ll have a digital trip diary.
Did these ideas spark any interest? If so, read on further in this great article by Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker about the opportunity for growth as grownups.