When you think of retirement hobbies, the activities traditionally associated with retirement — such as golfing, gardening, and fishing — probably come to mind. While these are worthwhile pursuits, don’t feel you have to limit yourself to stereotypical retirement hobbies.
You’re never too old to start learning new skills, nurturing latent talents, or experiencing new thrills. Consider these less conventional retirement hobbies to get a fresh take on your golden years.
Many people are under the misconception that they are too old to run, but not you! If you’re energetic and see yourself as active and fit, running may be your optimal retirement hobby.
A 2014 study conducted by Humboldt State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder found that running can help keep you significantly younger. Researchers examined people ages 65 and above and found that those who ran for at least 30 minutes three times a week enjoyed “walking economy” comparable to people in their 20s. (In layman’s terms, walking economy is a measure of the amount of energy a person expends while walking. ) This is particularly important when you consider that, according to an abstract of the study, “Impaired walking performance is a key predictor of morbidity in older adults,” and “Running mitigates the age-related deterioration of walking economy.”
At the age of 71, Larry Gable is living proof that you can become a successful runner at any age. After finding out at age 50 that he suffered from diabetes, Gable began incorporating more physical activity into his lifestyle. “During my working years, my job was confined to office work and, when I got off work, I would not have much physical activity,” Gable explains. He “started out walking a couple of miles and then picked up the pace by trying to run about half my distance.” Gable, who achieved a personal record at the age of 66, when he successfully completed a 10K in under 57 minutes, still runs — and, health permitting, so can you.
Twenty-one years after he began running, Gable says he looks “forward to running in the mornings. It starts my day out on the positive side. I meet and talk to people as I run through the neighborhood.” For Gable, running has proven not only physically rewarding, but also socially rewarding.
If you’re considering becoming a runner in retirement, Gable offers this advice: “Start off by having reasonable goals and advance from there. Having a walking or running buddy is a plus, too, because you can encourage each other and achieve your goals together.”
Maybe you’ve always wanted a bike but didn’t have the disposable income or time to ride. Chances are, you do now, and it’s time to fulfill that dream!
While experts caution about the dangers of riding a motorcycle after you’ve reached 40, in many states, older bikers outnumber those 40 and younger. Michael Russell, MD, has been riding motorcycles for 41 years. He knows riders who rode into their 70s without incident, as well as those “who recognize their decline in capacity and chose to get off. The issue is not age. It’s the ability to operate the machine safely.”
Riding motorcycles can provide many benefits if you exercise a “safety first” approach, which can include participating in the proper training and donning the proper safety gear. Rider Thomas Stuart sees biking as “a way to really enjoy how you get from point A to point B, often along with friends and loved ones.” The social aspect of riding may also increase its safety: “I believe in safety in numbers. Riding with one or more other bikers improves your visibility and also adds to the fun,” Stuart explains.
Because motorcycling requires a certain degree of strength and balance, as well as quick reflexes, it can motivate you to take better care of yourself so that you can continue to ride. In his “How to Stay Riding,” Art Friedman advises maintaining a regular exercise regimen, keeping your mind sharp, and compensating for changing vision and reflexes by being more careful when you ride — such as not tailgating.
Riding a motorcycle can also be good for your mental health. Dr. Russell sees riding a motorcycle as meditative. “The attention needed to ride safely but with ‘energy’ requires near complete concentration,” he explains. “There is a saying in the motorcycling community that you never see a motorcycle in front of a psychiatrist’s office.” The mental demands of riding can help keep your mind clear and sharp, while the “brotherhood that exists among bikers is very genuine. Riding with brothers (and sisters) provides significant psychological relief from excessive worry.”
If you see yourself as the creative type, love to write or tell stories, and enjoy learning new technological skills, blogging could provide an enjoyable retirement pastime for you. Rebecca Kelly used her blog not only to hone her writing skills and preserve precious family memories but also to connect with others. “I wished to share stories with other grandmas. I looked forward to the readers’ comments who related to my stories.” In her blogging adventures as “a first-time nana,” Kelly was also grateful that her new hobby “allowed me to participate in an ever-expanding club of grandmas, who also enjoyed their role.”
In addition to reaping benefits for her social life, blogging was “good for me emotionally and mentally,” Kelly says. “It provided not only the mental task of researching content daily but also the challenge of staying computer-savvy enough to post it! Forcing my laptop to upload, download, and share were tasks that strengthened my aging brain.”
While Kelly’s blog focused on her family and her role as a grandmother, you can begin and maintain a blog about any topic or lifestyle that interests you. Kelly recommends blogging “to anyone who’s discovered a passion, whether it be parenting or sky-diving or saving whales.”
And you don’t have to limit your writing and technology skills to short blog posts. Kelly’s blog has inspired her to begin writing a full-length book. She credits blogging with giving her the confidence and know-how to take her writing to the next level. “The ability to write my book is a direct offshoot of the discipline, commitment, and writing style I developed while blogging.”
Retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop earning income. If you’ve always been entrepreneurial and enterprising, there are lots of ways to earn extra cash during your retirement years. In addition to income, if your career provided your primary means of socializing, a part-time job in retirement can be a good way to make sure you don’t lose your social outlet after you retire. A healthy social life is important to your overall health.
There are retirement jobs for many different interests and skills. If you love sports and working with youth, for example, you might consider becoming an umpire, referee, or coach. While you will need a tough skin to help you cope with disgruntled players, parents, and fans from time to time, coaching, umpiring, and refereeing can prove rewarding and fairly lucrative. In addition, the role offers lots of opportunities to socialize, as well as to maintain physical fitness.
If you love children but don’t consider yourself athletic, a position as a teacher’s aide can be a good way to earn income, and it comes with the added bonus of summer break. Working with children can help keep you young at heart, while working in the education field can help keep your mind sharp.
If you’d prefer to work largely with adults, consider a job as a tour guide or at an event venue. While both of these positions are likely to require weekend, evening, and holiday hours, they provide excellent outlets for socializing and, in the case of a tour guide, for mental stimulation as you learn about your area and field questions from visitors.
If you’re active, enjoy spending time outside, and would prefer low-impact exercise with high-impact rewards, consider taking up cross-country skiing.
Sue Goodrich, who began cross-country skiing during college and continues the sport in her retirement, loves “being able to get outside in the winter, and cross-country skiing is much easier than walking in the snow. It is also easy to get started without a lot of training.” Her husband, Larry Goodrich, also cites the ease of cross-country skiing. “It’s safer and a whole lot cheaper than downhill skiing,” he explains.
Cross-country skiing provides many wellness benefits that can support your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. In addition to the aerobic exercise cross-country skiing offers, Mrs. Goodrich enjoys the ability to commune with nature. “There are rarely many people on the trails, so it is peaceful and quiet and you get to observe the beauty of nature,” she says. Her husband agrees: “It’s great exercise, and the peace of the woods in the winter is a special experience.”
In addition to helping melt away the stress of everyday obligations, cross-country skiing can offer you the ability to see familiar places in a new light. “We have skied at a large zoo that was open for skiing, on the beach at the ocean, and in the woods with the trees laden with snow. Each time is a unique experience,” Mrs. Goodrich says.
If you’re new to the sport, there’s no need to worry. Just “know the trail and remember that often you have to go back the way you came, so pace yourself,” Mrs. Goodrich explains. “You might want to start on a fairly level trail, as well.” Mr. Goodrich adds, “If you’ve never done it before, find someone to teach you the basics. It’s a very physical activity, so don’t push yourself too hard the first time out.”
You’re never too old to learn a new skill or language and, if you’re inquisitive and curious, retirement may be the perfect time to continue your education. Many universities across the country offer learning in retirement programs. Taking a college-level class without the pressure of grades and graduation can prove an enriching experience, both mentally and socially.
To relive the full college experience, you might consider moving to a university-based retirement community (UBRC). These exist around the country, and allow you to immerse yourself in the college community, living in a campus-like environment with classes, cultural events, and fitness centers close at hand. If you’d rather stay home, many institutions offer online learning opportunities through sites like edX, Open Culture, and Coursera.
If you plan to travel during retirement, consider learning the language of the country or countries you plan to visit. Despite the popular belief that the younger you are, the easier mastering a new language will be, “Many experts now believe learning a second language is no harder when you’re getting on in years than when you’re a child.” Learning a new language creates new neural pathways and stimulates cognitive activity, thereby helping decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. It also enlarges the number of people with whom you can converse, increasing opportunities to forge new friendships.
If you have always enjoyed exercising and like to motivate others, you might consider learning how to become a fitness instructor — a role that can support your physical health, as well as your social life and emotional well-being. The American Senior Fitness Association offers a Senior Fitness Instructor training program for people of all ages who want to instruct and motivate seniors, and the American Council of Exercise offers a Senior Fitness Specialist Program.
Retirement isn’t the time to slow down and while away the hours with the lull of a rocking chair. In fact, it can prove the perfect time for you to take up something new, redefine your identity, and enjoy being productive in a novel way.
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