It is no surprise that smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and physical inactivity increase the risk of mortality as we age.

But did you know that hobbies can be an important component of successful aging?

At any age, hobbies can make you happy, so hobbies are a critical part of healthy retirement planning. Studies show that active participation in hobbies is associated with significantly decreased mortality, while having no hobbies is strongly linked to mortality.

One of your hobbies should involve physical activity, which will have long-term benefits. With an increase in activity, there is also a slower rate of motor function decline. Plus, being physically active helps control chronic illnesses such as diabetes and arthritis. Choices for exercising vary from walking to golf to yoga or Tai Chi. A sport you enjoyed when you were younger may well work for you as a senior.

Socialization is important because retirement often means you leave your friends at work. If you don’t have a wide social circle, hobbies such as volunteering give seniors the opportunity to get out in the community and meet new people. Traveling also is a great way to socialize.

Evelyn McNabb didn’t start her quilting hobby until she was 83. An elder in Green House Living’s Watt Cottage, McNabb attends a weekly quilting group that meets at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Six to nine ladies gather to work on forming, sewing and tying quilts.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know about this opportunity earlier,” McNabb said, adding that the baby quilts she works on are donated to Sheridan Memorial Hospital. “I like doing something for others.”

Plus, McNabb enjoys the social aspect of the group.

“It’s nice to be with these ladies — we visit and talk all the time we are quilting,” she said. “We have lunch there too.”

Another of McNabb’s hobbies, reading, contributes to mental well-being. Learning a new skill, a new language or a new craft is challenging and mentally stimulating. When you’re busy, there’s less time to focus on your ailments. You are also more interesting because you have more to share.

Shirley Powell, an 82-year-old elder in Green House Living’s Watt Cottage, said she didn’t have much time for hobbies when she was younger working full time at Shipton’s and raising three children. Today, Powell was poring over instructions for how to do a “V” stitch for a hat she is crocheting. Powell’s other hobby is putting together a weekly jigsaw puzzle at a card table in the den. When asked if her hobbies make her happier, Powell smiled.

“It does me,” she said. “I’m content.”

How many hobbies should you have? Wes Moss, financial planner and author of “You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think: The Five Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees,” surveyed retirees in 46 states. Moss found that the happiest retirees have three to five hobbies and are really busy.


Dee Strauss is an administrator at Green House Living.