What's Your Hobby?

Winter 2010 CSANews Issue 77  |  Posted date : Dec 16, 2010.Back to list

Last summer, as I was busy in my shop attaching the radiator to my 1928 Ford Model A roadster, my neighbour stopped by to "supervise" my restoration work. He recently retired after nearly 40 years of factory shift work and found that he now had an excessive amount of free time and didn't know what to do with it. Such is the plight of many hard-working men and women who find, in their retirement years, that they have never developed outside interests or hobbies. I told him that he should have some fun, become creative and develop a hobby.

During our employment years when most of our time has been devoted to working and raising families, many have failed to develop a hobby. If we still own a home, we have the usual in-house and yard activities which can take up a considerable period of time, but we still have too much idle time unless we get involved in other activities, including hobbies. For those who have chosen condominium living and for snowbirds who reside in similar facilities during the winter months, the pursuit of an interesting hobby is even more important.

Health Benefits

It has long been known that keeping physically fit in our senior years is extremely beneficial to our overall health, including a reduction in the risk of hypertension, heart disease, excessive weight, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Research has now shown that mental activity is as important as physical activity in keeping us healthy. In fact, there is considerable evidence which shows that active mental stimulation is effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. A recent study by Robert Wilson of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago reported in the journal Neurology showed that the risk of cognitive decline was much lower in those who were mentally active, even though the period of dementia in the mentally active group that did develop it was shorter. For most of us, we would far prefer to avoid it entirely or prolong our productive mentally active years for as long as possible.

Participating in a hobby is one way of keeping the brain active. Activities such as reading books, magazines and newspapers, doing puzzles and playing games and cards stimulate the mind and often include a social element which is important. Developing a personal hobby and the expertise and pleasure which come with continued participation can be equally beneficial to your overall health.

Having one or more hobbies may not only provide many pleasurable hours in retirement, some can enhance your physical health as well. The lack of such interests can lead to a sedentary and often boring time for many. Just as our bodies are meant to be active and move, our minds need stimulation and challenges as well. Inactivity is our worst enemy. Sitting in the recliner watching too much TV is not good for either your physical or mental health!

It's Never Too Late to Start

But it's not too late. Hobbies can be started at any age. There are so many from which to choose that this article can only introduce you to some of the more popular activities. For those of us who have had hobbies for many years, we can now find enjoyment and more time to pursue them. For my part, I developed an interest in "old cars" while still in high school. For many years, I have been actively involved in maintaining and restoring antique vehicles, as well as playing an active role in a few of the antique automobile clubs in my area. Now that I have more leisure time, I often find myself out in the garage. My interest in woodworking has also been sustained and I have had many pleasurable hours building things, fixing things, doing some home renovation and building bird houses with my grandchildren.

And my inactive neighbour has just informed me that he has started a new hobby – producing stained-glass panels. He had done his research on the Internet and found that there were many organizations promoting this art and supplying the novice with patterns and supplies to pursue the hobby. His inaugural work was outstanding. Above his bar, he has mounted a case for holding wine glasses which has beautifully lit, painted-glass panels of songbirds. He is now on his next round of production…doing a window pane for his daughter's home.

Another hobby with which I am unfamiliar was undertaken by a friend's father who was in his 80s and still involved in scroll-saw wooden products, including the making of jigsaw puzzles. In a small workshop in his basement, he produced the most astounding ornaments, baskets and even clocks with his small collection of tools and scroll-saw books and patterns. He continued this hobby well into his 90s and I was always impressed with his continued interest and skill in pursuing his pastime.

Choose a hobby that fits your lifestyle. It may be one that you do yourself (woodworking), one that involves your spouse (dancing club) or one that may involve a social network (golfing). I recently joined our local curling club and am looking forward to this regular activity and the social benefits. Many women enjoy these activities, as well as many others including book clubs, quilting groups, volunteer groups, etc.

A Way to Find New Activities – and New Friends

Many communities both in Canada and in snowbird winter destinations have senior centres, where opportunities to develop new interests abound. At such sites, seniors share knowledge, skills and experience with others through both formal and informal instruction. Sharing experiences with others having the same interests carries added benefits over solitary hobbies. These benefits include the development of new skills, new interests and new friends. I have always been impressed when participating in the CSA's Winter Information Meeting at Port Charlotte, Florida's busy senior centre, where there is a well-equipped wood-working shop, a computer learning centre, a cards and craft room and many other areas providing activities to local residents and snowbirds. The dining room is busy with active seniors, as well as the numerous volunteers managing the food.

A recent study at George Washington University assessed the health effects of seniors older than age 65 who participated in music, dance and arts and crafts programs and found that people actually became healthier and happier. They were found to have better overall health, including fewer doctor's visits and falls and less use of medications. They also reported less depression, less loneliness and higher morale.

For those of us who use a computer, we are able to find a wealth of websites 
providing information and supplies for all of the various hobbies, including those mentioned as well as photography, ancestry research, model railroading, gardening, birding, yoga, reading, card and board games, restoring clocks and many others.

Combining Your Hobbies With Fitness

Persons restricted in their physical abilities will find plenty of choices for more sedentary hobbies, while those who want to combine more physical activity may choose from many activities that involve physical exercise. These include many sports such as golf, tennis, lawn bowling and curling, as well as group workshops for dancing or swimming.  

In recent years, walking or hiking clubs are becoming very popular. On our winter meeting circuit in California, we are always enlisted to participate in the challenging hiking expedition sponsored by our hiking instructor Jim Sherb, vice-president of the CSA. We are always reminded, "it's good for your health." Pick a hobby that you will enjoy. Your choice should not be merely an attempt to put in time, but one that enriches your life through achieving your interests and desires and bringing about enjoyment and pride in your accomplishments.

Where to Find Hobby Ideas

Have a look at some of the interesting websites under the banner of "hobbies." One such site is www.notsoboringlife.com, which lists dozens of common hobbies along with general information, tips, resources and guides on how to get started. If you haven't already become involved in a hobby, or want to broaden your interest, do your research and find one that suits your interest, lifestyle and pocketbook.

For my part, I have great plans for my next projects with my vintage vehicles and woodworking interests. And my wife Tess, in addition to doing a lot of volunteer work with her nurses' alumnae, has had a longtime hobby related initially to our four children and now to our seven grandchildren. It has become fairly expensive and I have been unable to persuade her to change it, possibly to quilting or cooking. It's called shopping!