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y grandmother loved making decorative bars of soap
and, at Christmas, I would make holiday-themed soaps
for all of my family members. We would wrap ribbon
of varying widths and patterns around the fragrant bars and
fasten them into place with decorative pushpins. Then we would
attach small silk flowers, tiny acorns, red berries or jingle bells.
Really, in the end, they were nothing more than dust-collecting
paperweights, but she had them all over her bedroom, proudly
displayed on shelves and table ledges.
She lived to be 88.
Is it possible that her soap hobby added to her longevity?
According to various sources, the short answer is yes.While it may
not directly add years to your life, having a hobby can definitely
improve a person’s overall quality of life by helping them keep
their minds sharp. According to Changing Gears, a Canadian re-
source website for boomers and seniors, staying mentally active
may actually help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of
dementia. This could include doing anything that is stimulating
to the mind, such as playing cards or board games, doing cross-
word puzzles, reading, and visiting the museum or art gallery, all
of which can minimize age-related memory loss.
Further to this, according to American anti-aging doctor Dr. Terry
Grossman, having a hobby that engages you physically as well as
mentally is particularly beneficial. “Hobbies needn’t be expensive
either. Gardening, birdwatching and photography are examples
of hobbies that will bring you outside and get you moving.
Psychologist Michael Brickey, author of the book
Defy Aging
[also] notes that hobbies reduce stress and provide a sense of
There’s really no shortage of hobbies from which to choose
–whether you’re an avid outdoorsman and love leisurely walks,
bike rides, games of tennis or golf, or prefer doing something
with your hands, such as needlework, cooking, painting, wood-
working or building, any activity that keeps your mind and body
active is going to be of great benefit.
Another great way to get involved in a hobby of some sort is to
join forces with other like-minded individuals – after all, there’s
more power in numbers. The book
The Longevity Project
, which
was published in March 2011, was written by two university pro-
fessors who conducted 20 years of research in an unprecedented
eight-decade study of 1,500 people over the course of their
lives since 1921 (the study is still ongoing). Howard S. Friedman
is a professor at the University of California and Leslie R. Martin
teaches psychology at La Sierra University, as well as acting as a
research psychologist at UC Riverside – together, they wrote
Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life
from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study
. In an interviewwith Psych
Central, one of the largest and oldest independent mental health
and psychology networks on the web, author Dr. Friedman ex-
plained that, “...the best way to get yourself on a healthy pathway
– one of healthy long-term patterns – is to associate with other
healthy, active, involved individuals, especially those relevant to
your desired healthy lifestyle. A key lesson of
The Longevity Project
is to join social groups and select hobbies that will lead you to a
whole host of consequential and naturally healthy activities. It is
heartening to know that embracing the lessons of
The Longevity
and persistently striving for a socially richer and more
productive life will significantly increase the odds of a long and
happy life as well.”
It’s hard to definitively say whether it was my grandmother’s soap
projects (and the fact that I did them with her) that kept her so
sharp and active until such a ripe age. However, it’s something
that she loved, and it obviously had a positive impact on her. So
whether or not we know for sure that a pastime such as sailing or
cross-stitching will add actual years to your life is hard to quantify
– but at least it’s a fun experiment in the meantime.
by Jennifer Cox
Longevity and Hobbies
Crafting a longer life