It’s no secret that pursuing your passion – no matter what stage of life you’re in – can provide countless advantages. Benefits range from feeling a deeper sense of purpose and satisfaction in your life to reducing stress and even improving your overall sense of well-being.
For an older adult, these benefits are even more significant.
“By starting a new activity or developing a hobby that engages your mind, you will be able to live your later life to its fullest – while also maintaining a healthy brain,” said Diane Franklin of OurParents.com. For people with memory problems, dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, activities provide a meaningful link to the past and a way to connect with others, according to AARP.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports, “People who engage in meaningful activities, like volunteering or hobbies, say they feel happier and healthier. Learning new skills may improve your thinking ability, too.”
Another NIA study found that activities like quilting or digital photography led to more memory improvement for older adults compared to those who only socialized or did less cognitively demanding activities.
Even if your newfound hobby is more sedentary or low-key, there are still plenty of physical benefits. For example, knitting or sketching keeps fingers limber and aids in dexterity.
Activities like walking help your heart and keep your legs strong. If you find that yoga or tai chi is your new passion, you’ll enjoy multiple physical benefits, including increased flexibility and range of motion.
In addition to improving cognitive issues, like memory, hobbies also play a big part in staving off loneliness and depression. Many hobbies can be done in group settings. Just being around other people, even if you’re simply sitting and crocheting, boosts your mood and allows you to connect.
Building relationships is an excellent side effect of pursuing a new passion. Friendships in later life are also vital to health and happiness, based on reports from Michigan State University.
In fact, in their recent study, more than 700,000 senior citizens ranked friendships with non-family members as the most important relationships in their life.
While creating something beautiful or hitting a goal in your physical fitness might be rewarding, don’t lose sight of the fact that the activity itself is a fulfilling experience. Jennifer Wegerer, writer for Alzheimers.net, said, “Remember to concentrate on the process of an activity and not the results. What matters is that [you or] your loved one enjoys the time spent on it and feels useful.”
Pursuing your passion (if you don’t have one, find one!) has the best side effects of any medicine one could take. Enjoy the pursuit!
Kaylynn Evans, MSM-HC, LNHA, CADDT, CDDM is executive director at Vineyard Bluffton. vineyardbluffton.com