Keep the good times rolling with senior activities that enrich the body, mind, and spirit. No one type is more important than another, and engaging in a variety of pastimes can help you maintain a vibrant and independent life. Whether you're a healthy retiree or in need of a little physical, mental, or emotional "tune-up," there are plenty of fun activities for seniors that you can try out.
Senior Activities That Build the Body
Any activity that encourages physical movement will help you build your body. As we age, we start to challenge our physical parts less and less, which can lead to an overwhelming sense of 'blah.' It's never too late to get back on the exercise horse, and these options are great for people of all activity levels. However, before you embark on any new exercise regimen or physical activity, get your physician's approval.
Participate in Silver Sneakers
Silver Sneakers is a program that offers Medicare-eligible adults memberships to participating fitness centers. The program encourages healthy living through fitness classes, social gatherings, and educational seminars. Seniors can also have access to a program advisor and online support to help address their unique health and fitness needs.
Join the Senior Olympics
The National Senior Games Association oversees the Senior Olympics, a biannual competition you probably never knew existed. People 50+ years old can compete on a state level in a variety of sports with the goal of winning a national championship. You can check the directory for your state's games to learn how to get involved.
Add Variety to Your Walks
A walk in your neighborhood, at the mall, along the beach or around your favorite park is a great way to start the day.
For variety, combine walking with another activity such as bird watching, a scavenger hunt, or letterboxing (an outdoor activity that combines hiking and treasure hunting). If you have a handheld GPS or Smartphone, geocaching (similar to letterboxing but using GPS coordinates) might be your thing, too. Nature is restorative, and getting out in it just once a week can do wonders for your health and happiness.
Many communities are building bikeways along abandoned inter-urban railway lines. Your local or county parks department can provide you with bike path locations and even maps, or you can look on TrailLink, the trails to rails conservancy, to see if there are paths near you.
Canoeing and kayaking are excellent ways to get outdoors, get some exercise, and see nature. Best of all, you don't have to buy a boat. Canoe liveries rent everything you need at reasonable rates.
Try Out Fishing
Walking along the bank of your favorite stream or lake in search of that elusive trout or catfish can provide a wonderful, low-impact workout. If you happen to hook a "keeper," you'll have all the exercise you can handle and then some.
Whether swimming vigorous laps or lazily dog paddling around the pool, water can provide rigorous and beneficial exercise for seniors. It's a great way to increase circulation, is perfect for people struggling with joint problems as it's low impact, and provides a lot of resistance. So, you can get double the work out in for half the time.
Play a New Sport
If you're not sure about what physical activities you might like to play, you can join a senior league or play with friends at the local park or rec center. After all, your only limitations are any health conditions you might have and your interest in the sport.
A few of the possibilities include:
Get Into Dancing
Dancing is a great aerobic exercise. Options include ballroom dancing, line dancing, tap, folk dancing and much more. If ballroom or tap isn't your thing, but you still love dancing, try Zumba Gold. Zumba's a high-energy Latin-inspired dance workout, and the Gold variety was designed with seniors in mind. You can find these classes at gyms, community centers, and dance schools.
Activity Ideas for Senior Citizens That Challenge the Mind
Keeping the mind sharp is important for people of all ages, but it becomes even more important as you get older. Degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disproportionately affect seniors, and although there's no cure, they're best staved off by continually challenging your mind.
Take a Class
Many colleges and universities have lifelong learning programs. Taught by professors, seniors can enjoy programs that cover topics from architecture to women's studies. Many of the classes are rich with discussion, guest speakers, and field trips. Some programs are seniors-only, while others allow attendees to audit undergraduate classes.
Start a New Hobby
Why not consider adding a hobby that you never had the time to develop before?
Some ideas include:
- Arts and crafts
- Jewelry making
- Raised bed gardening
- Gourmet cooking
Compete in a Scrabble Tournament
If words are your thing, you might want to look into joining a Scrabble tournament. Local groups put them together all the time, or you can take part in the national Scrabble competition that ends in a championship with cash prizes.
Learn to Play a New Instrument
Music nourishes the brain. A study by Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD, and Alicia MacKay, PhD, found that seniors who played musical instruments performed better on cognitive tests than those who didn't play.
If you've always wanted to learn to play the trumpet, saxophone, guitar, or other instrument go to your local music store and ask about private senior lessons for beginners. You can also check out the New Horizons International Music Association (NHIMA), a non-profit organization that provides entry points to music making for adults, including those with no musical experience as well as those who were musically active but have not been for a long time.
Put Pen to Paper
Like so many things, writing isn't about the final product so much as it's about enjoying the process as you work towards it. Yet, starting a writing project can be daunting, especially when you were working full time or raising a family. Now that you're at retirement age, you can put pen to paper and let your creativity shine through.
Here are some writing projects to get you started:
- Work on your memoir or learn to write poetry. Books at your local library, bookstore, or on your favorite reading app will teach you the basics and get you started.
- Try writing your thoughts and memories down in a journal. Freewriting is a technique where you just start writing what comes to mind and don't stop until you've pulled everything from your brain and committed it to paper. It can be a great entry-point for new writers.
- Join a book or writer's club in your community. It doesn't have to be just for seniors, and keeping in touch with younger generations will connect you to new opportunities you might never have known about.
Social Activities for Seniors That Enrich the Spirit
Humans are social animals, and we need to be around other humans every once in a while. While there are certainly spirit-enriching activities you can do alone, like meditation, group activities are, by far, more satisfying for most people. Involvement in church or civic organizations or time simply spent with family and friends are all spirit enriching activities you can and should do.
Visit a Senior Center
Most senior centers provide venues for bridge, checkers and other card games, as well as craft classes and even exercise programs. Senior centers also organize group trips and provide lunches for participating members for a nominal fee.
Join the Red Hat Society
Red Hat Society founder Sue Ellen Cooper believes that women of a certain age can live life with élan, interest, and gusto. What started as a few friends over 50 going out for tea in their red hats in the 1990s has swelled to an international "dis-organization."
Become a SCORE Mentor
Put your long-acquired business acumen to good use as a mentor in SCORE. Originally an acronym for Service Corps of Retired Executives, today, SCORE is a powerful tool for small business people and entrepreneurs. If you're considering starting a new business of your own in retirement, you can benefit from this service as well.
Travel to Places for the First Time
Whether it's a tropical vacation or a trip to a local attraction, there are plenty of fun places to explore. Groups such as Road Scholar organize trips that are ideal for seniors. If you're bringing a partner, turn travel into a romantic getaway at a bed-and-breakfast or funky vintage motel.
Enrich Your Life by Volunteering
There are thousands of charities and civic organizations crying out for helping hands. People like you, with valued experience and time to make changes happen, are always in need.
Some places that frequently need volunteers include:
- Tax preparation help
- Nursing home visits
- Community events
- Library helper
- Museum or music hall docent
- Tourist attractions
Take Some Time to Relax
For all the activities in the world, one of the most restorative is actually the most sedentary. Intentionally relaxing and letting go of your control is something everyone should be practicing. You can set your own schedule and do as you please. Set aside some time out of your day to sit back and relax. After all, you've worked hard. Take time for yourself and enjoy doing nothing.
Tips for Making Connections & Finding Activities in Your Area
Knowing that you want to get out there and experience new things or activities is all well and good, but making that fantasy a reality is harder than some people think. Even with social media and instant connection through technology, kids today are struggling just as much as seniors to find their people outside of a work setting.
If you're struggling with this too, here are a few tips for finding activities and making connections in your area.
Head to the Local Library
You don't have to be interested in reading to get something out of going to your local library. Libraries are often a catch-all for community building in small towns. They normally have rooms where people can host an exhibition, teach a craft, hold a club meeting, etc. Check with your local librarians about any upcoming events happening at the library and if you need to sign up ahead of time.
Use a Local Gym to Learn About Active Events
Just like with libraries, gyms have more than just workout equipment. They hold unique classes throughout the year that you can attend. Check with the receptionist for more information about what classes they have and if they (or any of the trainers) know about local sporting clubs you can join.
Look for Social Media Groups Based on Your Location & Interests
Social media apps like Facebook have their downsides, but one thing they do offer is a chance to find niche groups in your area. Just type in your location or something you're interested in in the groups tab and see what comes up. Join any groups that look interesting to you and start interacting with other people's posts as well as making some of your own. You'll have new friends and activities planned in no time!
Make Your Own Group
Platforms like Meetup are specifically designed to help people connect with other people that're interested in the same things. They let people come together, organize a new meetup time and place (whether it's in-person or online), and cherish in conversation and camaraderie. If you can't find an existing group, you can always start your own. And Meetup, specifically, has its own Seniors section made to connect people who are at the same stage in their life together.
You May age, but Your Social Life Doesn't Have To
It's never too late to enjoy the things you love. Figure out which activities make you the happiest, make a list, and dive right in. Don't be afraid to explore new activities, especially if it's something you've always wanted to do. Enjoy your time as an independent senior and let the good times roll!