Knitting and crossword puzzles? Not for baby boomers! More and more of our parents and grandparents are taking up non-traditional hobbies that require higher-level thinking. Studies show that the elderly can slow down the mental aging process by taking up a hobby or learning a new skill. The more mentally-demanding the activity, the more effective it is at keeping memory-loss at bay. The elder generation is delving into unfamiliar territory and increasing their brain power.
There are so many unexpected hobbies out there, but here are a few that we found especially interesting.
1. Counting – Leo Hill, an 81-year-old WWII veteran figured that every roll of toilet paper he’s used since mid-2006 has shorted him at least one sitting. He decided to act on this idea. So Leo counted every sheet of toilet paper as he used it. He just wanted to know if the number of sheets on the package matched what was on the roll. At the end of the month, Leo said the average was 156.75 sheets even though 198 were on the package. Concerned that other consumers might be having the same problem, Hill took his case to the Denver Better Business Bureau. That was the last Leo heard and the last anyone heard from him. He’s been counting to himself ever since. Counting is a lifelong skill that helps with problem-solving.
2. Exotic collections – Many seniors spend their time traveling to new places and meeting new people, collecting coffees and teas as mementos. These coffee and tea collections help with memory recollection. When you, your friends or loved ones travel the country or around the world, pick up exotic blends of coffee and tea. A great thing to do with the packaging is to scrapbook or frame them. Add where they came from and the date it was found. Now you have a reminder of the places you have traveled and can share those stories with others!
3. Martial Arts – Martial Arts, such as Tai Chi and boxing, are growing more common among the elderly as a way to exercise their bodies and their minds. Tai Chi classes focus mostly on health and balance so almost anyone can participate at different physical levels. This form of exercise is the perfect way to maintain good physical health as well as mental wellbeing because it is low-impact. Combined with standard treatment, Tai Chi appears to be helpful for several medical conditions including arthritis, low bone density, hypertension and sleep problems, according to Harvard Medical School. An hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis. Tai Chi is no pain but has big gains!
4.Disaster Relief – In the spirit of volunteerism, more retirees join the American Red Cross or the Peace Corps to help proved aid to those in need, and continue to use their skills long after they have stopped working in the workplace. The American Red Cross fly their volunteers around the country to provide assistance to people affected by natural disasters. They are always in need volunteers who want to stay active and help make the world a better place. Studies have found that people who make a habit of helping others report better health than those who don’t, and seniors who do volunteer work may actually live longer.
5.Mentoring – The older generation is staying young by investing time in their communities, and engaging with a younger non-family member that they can share their knowledge with. Volunteer work increases a senior’s sense of purpose, which leads to greater self-esteem, often at a time in life when many older adults are depressed or isolated. An elder has a chance to transfer their knowledge, skills, and values to the next generation. Youth also find older adults to be supportive role models, which leads to an all-around increase in the student’s motivation to learn, and leadership and communication skills.
A study of more than 200 pensioners found those put on a course teaching them something they had never done before had better memories after 12 weeks than those who engaged in social events or easy mental activities at home. So push yourself and your loved ones out of your comfort zones and try something new that you never thought you could do!