Participate in activities you enjoy as you age

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There are many things you can do to improve your health as you age, including making healthy food choices and not smoking. But did you know that participating in social and other activities that you enjoy can also help with healthy aging?

As you get older, you may spend more time alone at home. Being alone or socially isolated is not good for your overall health. For example, it can increase feelings of depression or anxiety, which can negatively impact many other aspects of your health. If you find yourself spending a lot of time alone, try to participate in activities that you find meaningful, those that give meaning to your daily life. These can include hobbies, volunteer activities, or time with family and friends.

Benefits of an active lifestyle

Engaging in social and productive activities that you enjoy, such as taking an art class, joining a hiking club, or volunteering in your community, can help you maintain your well-being and independence as you age. . An active lifestyle isn’t just about taking your daily steps. It includes doing activities that are meaningful to you and beneficial to your mind, spirit, and body.

Research has shown that older adults with active lifestyles:

  • Are less likely to develop certain diseases. Participation in hobbies and other social activities can reduce the risk of developing certain health problems, including dementia, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.
  • Have a longer lifespan. Studies looking at people’s outlook and lifespan show that happiness, life satisfaction, and a sense of purpose are all linked to living longer. Doing things you enjoy can help cultivate those positive feelings.
  • Are happier and less depressed. Studies suggest that seniors who participate in activities they find meaningful, such as volunteering in their community or physical activity, report feeling happier and healthier.
  • Are better prepared to cope. When people feel happier and healthier, they are more likely to be resilient, which correlates with our ability to bounce back and recover from difficult situations. Positive emotions, optimism, physical and mental health, and a sense of purpose are all associated with resilience.
  • May be able to improve their thinking skills. Research suggests that participating in certain activities, such as those that are mentally stimulating or involve physical activity, can have a positive effect on memory — and the more variety, the better. Other studies provide new insights into how creative activities, such as music or dance, can help older people with memory problems or dementia.

Activities to consider

Infographic, tips to improve your health as you age.  Click the link for the full infographic

Read and share this infographic and spread the word about ways that can help promote healthy aging.

There are many places to look for opportunities to participate in activities you enjoy, depending on your interests and abilities. Here are some ideas that might work for you. Some of them include activities that can be enjoyed even remotely using phones, computers, and other devices. Others can be done alone. So even if you’re in a rural area or have other restrictions, you can still find ways to engage in activities you enjoy.

Connect with family and friends

  • Play cards or other games with friends in person or online.
  • Travel with a group of older people, such as a group of retirees.
  • Video chat or call your friends and family members.
  • Try different restaurants with your loved ones.
  • Listen and share your favorite music with your family.
  • Join a group interested in a hobby, such as knitting, hiking, bird watching, painting or wood carving.
  • Reconnect with old friends through your high school or college alumni association.

learn something new

  • Take a cooking, art, dance, language or computer class. Get in touch with your local community college or library. Many offer free or discounted classes for seniors. You may even be able to find courses online.
  • Create or join a book or film club
  • Try yoga, tai chi, or another new physical activity
  • Learn (or relearn) to play a musical instrument
  • Visit local museums. Many offer free group tours and educational programs.

Become more active in your community

  • Visit a community or senior center and participate in its events and activities
  • Serving meals or arranging clothing donations for those in need
  • Shopping for people with reduced mobility or with access to transport
  • Join a committee or participate in an activity at your place of worship
  • Volunteer at a school, library, museum, hospital or animal shelter
  • Help with gardening in a community garden or park
  • Organize a park cleanup through your local recreation center or community association
  • Sing in a community choir or play in a local band or orchestra
  • Take part in a local theater group
  • Get a local part-time job or explore online opportunities
  • Teach a favorite hobby or skill, such as embroidery, photography, model building, chess, baking, woodworking, calligraphy, or quilting, to a new generation

Get out and get moving

  • Gardening (indoors or outdoors) or doing yard work
  • Take an exercise class or do exercises at home
  • go dancing
  • Join a sports club for older adults, such as a bowling club or pétanque league
  • Walk or cycle with a friend or neighbor
  • Take a swimming lesson
  • Play with your grandchildren. Teach them a game or dance that you remember from childhood
  • Stroll around the neighborhood or on nature trails

Adopt healthy stress-busting habits

  • Read a good book, magazine or newspaper
  • Practicing gratitude and mindfulness
  • Do tai chi or yoga
  • Cook your favorite healthy meal
  • Enjoy the little things, like a cup of coffee or the sunrise

For more information on participation in activities

This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date.

Content Revised: March 28, 2022

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Richard V. Johnson