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The Best Hobbies and Activities to try out in Retirement

| Health and Lifestyle

Later life and retirement can be one of the most enjoyable periods of our lives; we’re older and wiser, more aware of who we are, but most importantly we’ve now got the time to go out and do whatever it is we’ve always wanted to do.

‘More time for personal activities’ is often cited in polls of over 70 year olds as one of the biggest benefits of growing old, and the Office for National Statistics found that those aged 65+ spent an average of seven hours and ten minutes a day on leisure activities; the most out of all age groups. 

We now know that loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and that it is a key problem for older people in the UK, 3.6 million of whom live alone. On the other hand, the Age UK Index of Wellbeing in Later Life concluded that engaging with the world around us through social, creative, physical or community activities can contribute more than 20% to our wellbeing in later life. Not only can the right hobby help people of all ages make more friends and give our lives routine, colour and achievement, but it can also help to improve our mental and physical health, and our sense of wellbeing.

If you’re interested in reaping the benefits of starting a hobby during retirement, here are some of the most popular hobbies and interests that people pick up in later life, to inspire you: 

Hobbies that will help me meet people

Disappointingly, a study into quality of life indicators across the EU found that participation in recreational groups and organisations declined sharply in the 65+ group, compared with those aged 18-64. Joining a group is such a fantastic way to meet like-minded people and to get the most out of your interests, whilst also helping us to connect with our community. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Join a book club
  • Take part in historical re-enactments
  • Start a blog
  • Join a band/choir
  • Join a dance class
  • Attend gym classes (aqua fitness)
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or animal shelter
  • Write to a pen pal
  • Join a society
  • Cosplay/costume-making
  • Attend board game nights
  • Go to festivals/concerts
  • Attend local pub quizzes
  • Attend conventions
  • Go to wine-tasting nights
  • Join a drama group
  • Join a film club
  • Take part in chess tournaments
  • Join a walking group
  • Attend an art class
  • Join a sports team
  • Help out at an amateur radio station
  • Learn a new language
  • Start a social media group
  • Get an allotment
  • Attend karaoke nights

There are plenty of hobbies out there that will give you the opportunity to meet people face-to-face, but if leaving the house on a regular basis isn’t a possibility then there are still ways for you to meet people without leaving your home. There are social media groups and online forums that you can join to meet people through the internet, but if you’d rather meet someone in a more traditional way then there are pen pal schemes out there that could help you to reach out to people and build meaningful relationships. 

Postpals are a charity organisation that have made it possible to send letters, cards and gifts to seriously ill children to make them smile during a difficult time. The website allows you to choose a pal to write to, and provides information on their interests, family and reading ability to give you lots of ideas to write about. PostPals can’t guarantee that you’ll receive a reply, as understandably the children are focused on their treatment, but the act of writing a thoughtful note to someone on a regular basis can help many of us to feel connected. 

Hobbies I can do at home

Not everyone wants to fill their calendar with classes and events that will have us constantly in and out of the house. Sometimes we just need something that we can pick up and put down whenever we feel like it, from the comfort of home. If this sounds like you, then take a look at some of our favourite activities to keep us busy at home:

  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Painting and drawing
  • Upcycling furniture
  • Make your own beer
  • Writing (poetry/prose)
  • Jigsaws and puzzles
  • Card-making
  • Jewellery-making 
  • Woodwork
  • Fixing up old cars
  • Origami
  • Write to a pen pal
  • Scrapbooking
  • Gardening
  • Knitting and crochet
  • Reading
  • Textiles
  • Baking
  • Candle-making
  • Soap-carving

Puzzles and problem-solving games have long been praised as fantastic exercises for the brain, and studies suggest that keeping an active brain can lower the risk of dementia, improve memory, improve hand-eye coordination and reduce stress levels. But there’s no need to fill your cupboards with jigsaws or to buy chunky crossword books anymore, when there are millions of puzzles and games available at your fingertips online.  

Online surveys carried out on randomly selected respondents found that 47% of PopCap gamers were aged 50 or over, suggesting that many older people have already discovered the benefits of practising their skills online, including the chance to connect with people from all over the world from the comfort of their living-room. If you’d like to get into online gaming then here are some great free websites to get you started: Chess.comTheJigsawPuzzles.comLexulous.com (Scrabble), Facebook.com/Games.

Hobbies that will get me out of the house

Finding an excuse to leave the house is a great way to bring structure into your day, but you don’t have to join a group, or pay for a class to get out and about. There are lots of hobbies out there that can take you wandering through the countryside, strolling along the beach, popping into your local town or simply out into the garden. Here are just a few examples that you can take part in alone or as part of a group: 

  • Birdwatching
  • Trainspotting
  • Fishing
  • Photography
  • Fossil hunting
  • Seashell collecting
  • Attending food festivals
  • Buying/selling antiques
  • Amateur astronomy
  • Beekeeping
  • Camping
  • Foraging
  • Gardening
  • Sailing
  • Metal-detecting
  • Flower pressing

The beauty of many of the hobbies listed above is that they can be both something you do on your own whenever you feel like getting out of the house, and something that brings you closer to other people by meeting up once in a while to carry out the activity as a group. There are many conventions and clubs out there for enthusiasts, including local groups such as those run by the RSPB. These volunteer-run groups meet on a regular basis to help support their local wildlife, and often go out on field trips to learn more about nature in their area. 

Hobbies that will get me thinking

Research into the impact of lifestyle factors on wellbeing carried out by the YMCA found that mental stimulation increases wellbeing by 13%! Whether it’s learning a new skill, attending a class, sharing your insights with a group or even entering a competition, mentally stimulating hobbies could be the key to nurturing your creativity and improving your wellbeing. Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Creative writing (poetry/prose)
  • Games and puzzles
  • Learning magic tricks
  • Computer programming
  • Join a debate club
  • Reading
  • Genealogy
  • Learn a new language
  • Model building
  • Crafts
  • Join a fantasy football league
  • Scrapbooking
  • Microscopy
  • Amateur astronomy
  • Join a chess club
  • Learn a musical instrument
  • Start a blog
  • Painting
  • Origami
  • Flower arranging
  • Join the UK Hand Knitting Association
  • Compose music

Joining a fantasy football league is a great way to practise your strategic thinking, connect with like-minded people online and to immerse yourself into a hobby that you can engage with as much or as little as you like. The Fantasy Premier League is free to join and you could even win prizes for finishing in the top 3 or becoming manager of the month. You can set up a league among friends and family to add a little extra excitement to watching the football together at the weekends, or join in with online communities to meet new people online.

Hobbies that will get me moving

The health benefits of staying active as we age are monumental, and of course joining a team or class is an easy way to meet new people and have fun while you work up a sweat. The key is to try a variety of activities until you find something that you truly enjoy. A 2017 study by the University of Stirling found that walking, swimming and cycling are popular exercises with the elderly, and as cheap, low-impact exercises they are a great choice. But there are a whole variety of exciting sports out there to try your hand at if they’re not for you, including:

  • Yoga
  • Golf
  • Darts
  • Bowling
  • Dancing
  • Pool/Billiards
  • Walking football
  • Croquet
  • Tai chi
  • Archery
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Juggling
  • Table tennis
  • Pilates
  • Baton twirling
  • Clay shooting
  • Curling
  • Hiking
  • Martial arts
  • Abseiling
  • Rock-climbing
  • Cricket
  • Badminton
  • Volleyball
  • Weight-lifting
  • Horse-riding
  • Netball
  • Squash
  • Cycling
  • Basketball
  • Rounders
  • Tennis
  • Hockey
  • Running
  • Polo

Your local leisure centre, community centre and Age UK centre will be able to advise you on the classes they run if you’re looking for an indoor pursuit. And for those of us that prefer getting out in the fresh air, there are groups and societies out there to bring a social element to our hobbies. Walking for Health is one such group that arrange walks all around the UK to help people improve their health, find a love of walking and meet new people. Graham, a walker who joined the group in Stockport, gave this review, “I reflect on what the group has given me, and my wife who is disabled, and feel it is much more than was ever hoped by myself or the organisation. The weekly meeting helps not only physical health but also mental health, it has made me more positive and enabled me to be a better long term carer for my wife.” 

Age Co offer a variety of products to help people aged over 50 to make the most of later life, including Car Insurance for over 50s designed with experienced drivers in mind. For many of us past 50, access to our own car can be the difference between making the most of our retirement and missing out on the things we really want to do.

Age Co Car Insurance is administered by Ageas Retail Limited and brought to you by Age Co Enterprises Limited.

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