You’ve likely heard the expression ‘use it or lose it,’ about the ageing brain. While it may sound a little extreme, there is an element of truth to this adage.
The brain is like a muscle, and it needs regular exercise in order to remain strong and healthy. So, to retain cognitive skills like problem solving and creativity, it’s important that seniors use them often! Staying intellectually fit not only improves a senior’s quality of life, but studies also show that it may reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and other brain disorders.
So, what’s the best way seniors can keep the brains sharp and fighting fit? Taking up a hobby! From brain puzzlers to creative projects, here are 10 of the best hobbies for seniors to stay mentally engaged.
For seniors who haven’t already looked into their family history, there’s no better time to get researching. Genealogy (the study of families) is a great hobby for seniors. Not only is it incredibly interesting, but it’s an excellent way to help preserve your family’s legacy. Plus, you may come from a royal lineage or be related to someone famous and not even know it!
There are many great websites that can help you put together your family tree, such as Ancestry.com and MyHeritage. These have thousands of international documents like birth records, marriage and death certificates to help you trace back your history.
This is also a great bonding hobby you can do with your grandkids, as it will help them understand where they came from, too.
2. Brain games
Just as you can train your body with exercise, you can do the same with your mind with brain games! These are activities that are specifically designed to tease the brain and cognitively challenge you. This could be a puzzle like a crossword or sudoku, or brain training apps like Lumonisity or Brain HQ. Research shows that seniors who regularly practice these kinds of puzzles have sharper brains.
For a more social hobby, you could also play a game like mahjong, chess or checkers with friends or family. These have the added benefit of alleviating loneliness, as well as boosting your brainpower.
This is a great way for seniors to get creative, while also making a lovely memento they can keep or give as a gift. Grab some old photos (or, get some digital ones printed), get out the craft supplies and go to town creating your masterpiece. You can also use things like glitter and sparkles to add a little extra pizazz to your scrapbook. This is a great activity, as it uses a lot of creativity, as well as fine motor skills.
Not really a fan of arts and craft? You can also use a company like Snapseed to make a digital photo album full of your favourite snaps if you’re computer-savvy (or, get a younger relative to help you).
4. Jigsaw puzzles
Who doesn’t love a good jigsaw puzzle? Sure, it can be a little frustrating when you have that one piece that just won’t slot in anywhere, but that’s half the fun of it — it’s a challenge.
Studies show that solving jigsaw puzzles has a positive impact on visuospatial cognitive awareness in older people, which is the ability to identify visual and spatial relationships among objects. This is an important skill, as it can help stop you from having dangerous falls.
One of the best things about jigsaw puzzles as a hobby is how versatile they are — you can do them alone, or as a social activity with friends. Plus, it’s always so satisfying when you finally solve one after days of pondering over it!
5. Yoga and tai chi
Hobbies that keep you physically active as well as mentally fit are a huge bonus! The ancient Indian practice yoga and the Chinese martial art of tai chi both fit firmly into this category.
These activities are popular with seniors, because as well as being relaxing, they are low-impact exercises that aren’t too demanding on the knees.
Both of these activities also have a strong mind-body connection and have been found to have positive effects on cognitive function and working memory. Plus, they’re great ways to practice mindfulness, which can lead to reduced stress and increased happiness.
6. Listening to audiobooks
There’s nothing quite as delightful for the brain as getting immersed in a great story. However, reading can become a little tougher for seniors as eyesight starts to decline.
A great solution? Audiobooks! These are audible versions of books, narrated out loud. Subscribing to an app like Audible gives you access to thousands of these stories, from romances to detective mysteries. Or, you can go for a non-fiction audiobook to teach you about a new topic or pick up a new skill. The options are endless!
It’s almost like watching a movie, but much better for your brain as you have to use your imagination to visualise Detective Poirot stepping aboard a train, or Elizabeth Bennett riding through the countryside on horseback!
7. Tell your story
Chances are, you have a fair bit of life under your belt by this point. Now is the time to record and preserve your life story, if you haven’t already! Even if you think you’re not much of a writer or struggle with a pen or keyboard, there are some great ways to tell your story.
Apps like LifeStory make it easy to record your life memory, while companies like MemLife and StoryPress will even turn your story into a beautiful, printed book. You could even get a younger relative to help you with this process, by interviewing and transcribing your story. Then, you can give them the book as a keepsake they’ll cherish forever.
8. Learning a new skill
It’s never too late to learn a new skill or pick back up an old one! Not only is it a great way to put a new sense of purpose into your day, but it helps create and strengthen neural pathways in the brain. This goes a long way in keeping the mind sharp and healthy.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn to speak a second language, play the guitar or sing opera? Now is the time to do that thing you’ve always put off for ‘later.’ From YouTube and podcasts to books and online platforms like Teachable, there are so many great resources out there to teach you anything you want to learn.
Gardening is a popular hobby with seniors for good reason. It gets you outside and is relaxing and rewarding — nothing beats the feeling of seeing your blooms or veggie patch come to fruition! Gardening is also a great activity for the brain, as it uses key functions like problem-solving, spatial awareness and dexterity. It has also been found to have a positive impact on physical fitness and stress levels. What’s not to like?
It’s hard to think of a more well-rounded hobby for seniors than crochet. It uses and challenges so many key cognitive functions, from problem-solving to hand-eye coordination. Plus, it helps keeps the hands busy, and is something you can do anytime and anywhere! One of the best things about crochet is that you get something tangible at the end, whether it’s a scarf for winter or a blanket for a grandchild. This helps make it all the more rewarding!
Whether you’re looking for a hobby for yourself or a senior relative, the good news is there’s no shortage to choose from. Regularly taking part in these activities is a great way to keep the mind in tip-top condition. At Scalabrini, we have a wide range of activities on offer for our residents and are dedicated to helping them find the right one to ensure they are feeling happy and engaged.