Activities For The Elderly

Older individuals need to foster creative playtime, in order to find retirement days rewarding. Here are suggestions from A-L for learning to relax when there's no longer a 9-5.

Many folks anticipate their retirement from a 9-5 job as liberation, time to begin living, probably in pursuit of some hobby or creative activity in which their time has been restricted not by desire but by the exigencies of work and family demands. But retirement often looms large and forbidding to the Type A person whose worth has always been gauged by the degree and amount of work achieved. Those retired men and women who seem unsettled, at odds and even depressed with excess time on their hands are the ones without a passion, without a hobby that can channel their energy and feed their egos in some way.

So you admit you may fit in the above category and you're in the market for some fun? Okay, but what constitutes a hobby? Is family life a hobby? For someone who has had to limit the amount of time playing with new grandchildren or even developing deeper relationships with adult children, a spouse or aging parent or sibling, change from practicing to correct the limitations of the past can certainly be considered a worthwhile hobby indeed. If a retired person gets enthused about finding more ways to interact with family, that can well become a hobby, an abiding interest that can lead to a richer, fuller life. Those who have no hobby at retirement age should not despair. It's never to late to pick one up, or even two or three or four. Here are some suggestions, from A to L. Part 2 will consider M-Z.

ARTthis includes drawing, painting, sculpture. A trip to an art supply store can introduce you to supplies needed, and perhaps even a schedule of classes available in your area. One person took up oil painting a year before she retied, going for weekly lessons. She continued the lessons for three years, and now is always ready to pull out a small canvas and her oil paints to capture the flowers on the table, the bowl of fruit or the scene out the window in the fall. There are other aspects of art that can add up to great hobbies in addition to making art.

How about collecting ART? Beginning collectors can study the art collection scene, travel to galleries, take courses, even plan fun and exciting trips to other venues here and abroad in hopes of acquiring pieces of art according to their budget. You don't have to be a millionaire to acquire art, either. Buy small canvases from summer painters who display their work at shoreline or resort shows, or even check out showings at local colleges and high schools Two of my favorite paintings are watercolors done by high school students""they're fresh, novel, bright and alive. They aren't Picasso, but they're original, and they were fun to acquire. Acquiring fine art accents ART appreciation, too, another general category for revving up a latent interest.

BIRDWATCHING seems to appeal to older people I know, particularly men. More retired fellows than I can shake a stick at have invested in fancy birdfeeders of every kind, and make it a daily task to fill the feeders, supply the suet, and keep an eye out for old and new friends on the perches. Bird books help the novice or the experienced watcher to identify and understand the feathered flocks. But bird-watching need not be a sedentary habit. Some folks join in extensive bird counts through the Audubon Society and other groups, hiking through the woods or perching on a river bank in spring to spot American Bald Eagles or other raptors, songbirds or others. In any case, learning more about birds can be exciting. There are raptor centers in Vermont and other states that deserve a visit as part of your bird-watching education. Birds are a neglected but fascinating part of nature's beauty around us.

COLLECTING Many people set aside their earliest collections at some point in midlife when they are too busy to pursue it. Whether it's salt and pepper shakers from every state in the union, or books by a particular author, even first editions, or stamps, coins, Beanie Babies or antiques of one sort or another, collections can be fun, even obsessing. You might want to find new ways to mount or display your collection now that you have more time. Or refine your collection as you age, discarding a bulk of items and focusing on a few more cherished ones, but in either case, the balance of free time and a little discretionary spending money can lead to new challenges on the collecting scene and allow you to leave something of economic worth and perhaps even sentimental value to your heirs.

DANCE An older couple I know took up choreographed ballroom dancing shortly before they retired, which eased them into a busy schedule of weekly dances and even trips across the region and the country for special dance weekends. They made new friends in their new hobby, too. Single older people can take up line dancing, or modern dancing""all healthy for remaining limber and flexible in later years. Besides, doing anything to music can be enlightening and relaxing.

E-MAIL Emailing friends and relatives you haven't been in touch with much is a great hobby, and a friend has thrown himself into it with pleasure. Many older folks make contact with old classmates or relatives who live far away on e-mail, and stay in touch to exchange jokes, stories, plans and ideas. Such reconnecting often leads to meetings and gatherings that add a warm dimension to the later years. After all, it's people who count.

FRIENDS make a category all their own. Most retired folks do say one of their biggest delights in retirement is reconnecting with friends they haven't had much time for in the past. Some retired friends I know get together for weekly dinners or card games, monthly heater dates or classes. Old friends are great to reminisce with, but new friends offer an uncharted horizon full of possibilities. The sad thing about not connecting with friends until you're older is that by the time you're retirement age some of your friends are becoming ill or even dying. Some may be in nursing homes. Visiting confined folks becomes an act of kindness. Eventually, you may go on visiting nursing homes because you gain so much being around elders who have a lot of wisdom, a lot of heart to share, and who need your company, too.

GARDENING is almost always the hobby by default for people who have property with lawns, gardens and trees. If you're in this boat, why not choose an element of gardening around your land that appeals to you, but about which you need to learn more? For example, you might want to undertake a perennial bed, if previously you only grew annual flowers. Or you might want to try cultivating dwarf fruit trees if previously you only grew vegetables, or a rock garden if you have a spot you could never cultivate at all. Make it a challenge, learn something, and grow something beautiful. Off season can be the time for learning, studying, ordering, and plotting, spring, summer and fall, for the growing/harvesting. Gardening, most people find, provides excellent exercise and the rewards are endless.

HOSTELING That is, elderhosteling. This unique learn-and-travel program for seniors is held in colleges around the country and overseas. Friends often join together to take the courses in an area of the country they want to visit. Courses in history, geography, literature and more are fairly inexpensive, and stays in college dorms are reasonable, too. Some stays require a certain amount of roughing it, but clean rooms and decent beds, plain institutional food are minimal basics. Prices vary.

MINTERNET There's so much to explore in cyber space that has been written about elsewhere, it hardly warrants an enthusiastic recommendation here. You can learn about almost any subject through research on the internet; you can also join chat links, play games, listen to overseas radio programs, learn languages, study the opinions of others, and access pictures, visit virtual art museums and more.

JOIN a club, a hobby group, a political party, a class at your local evening school. Or a prayer group, a choir, a choral group or dining out club. They're just plain fun, and having your social occasions scheduled by a group will be just the challenge you need to get out and join the fun""whether you're single or with a partner.

KITE-FLYING is one sure way to feel like a kid again. Thee are hundreds of models, from basic to very complex box and other styles, including double and triple kits with amazing color and beauty, all kinds of skills to learn, even kites to build and kiting organizations to join and gather with during high kiting season. Try it, or at least look for notice of some nearby kite conventions in the summer and attend""bring your camera along, you'll be impressed.

LANDS AND PEOPLE, in other words, travel can be a whole occupation for the retired. Much of the travel industry is geared to attracting and keeping older travelers who have the flexibility of time and some spending money available. Where have you always wanted to go? Is it viable? Do you have someone to travel with, or would you enjoy being a loner? Perhaps group travel in an organized tour is your cup of tea, or a cruise, where packing and unpacking are unnecessary.

Every older person I know who has visited Great Britain, whether on their own or as part of a tour, has raved about the experience. The British and Irish seem to know how to treat their elders well. Trips to U. S. and Canadian destinations are also popular. Hawaii, Alaska and Florida are always a treat, in the right season. Or if you're more adventurous than that, try Eastern Europe, a musical tour of Vienna, or an Italian hiatus on the Amalfi coast or in splendid Tuscany. The opportunities are limitless.

Continue to Part 2...

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