2017-06-16 / Columns

New hobbies can help in later life

Other Side of 50
Andrea Gallagher

Retirement can be a perfect time to learn something new. Look at former President George W. Bush, who began to paint after leaving office in 2009.

Bush told friends and family he found the art form relaxing. He hired a teacher to help him, telling her he wanted to discover his “inner Rembrandt.”

After painting a series of portraits of military personnel he’d met and wanted to honor, Bush published “Portraits of Courage,” a book of those works.

“I know each person I painted,” said the former president. “I was thinking about their backgrounds, their service, their injuries and their recovery.”

Linda, a 69-year-old widow, also chose something new after a major life change. Ten years ago she was deep in depression after the sudden death of her husband. She recently wrote to tell me, “I was blessed to find a wonderful group of people that helped put a smile on my face.”

Linda joined the Boots and Slippers Square Dance Club of Simi Valley. “It gives me a reason to go out one night a week and puts me in the middle of happy, laughing, friendly people,” she said.

And, as she was getting ready to retire, my friend Jo took up running. She began training with Conejo Roadrunners. To date she has completed four half-marathons and dozens of shorter running events.

For many years Jo has been the leader of the annual Love Run Westlake’s Team Chardonnay, which is ironic as Jo does not drink Chardonnay and had not been a runner. She did, however, walk the 10K. It was her daughter who encouraged her to run her first 10K at Love Run, and Jo has never looked back.

“ Once you run, you’re hooked,” Jo told me. “Running is so calming and a great stress reliever; and I get to visit my old friends, the oak trees.”

Irene’s husband passed away a year ago. In planning her first travel experience without him, she decided to join a group of people on a trip to Greece.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, keeping your mind active helps reduce the risk of dementia.

There are all sorts of hobbies available to those with a little time on their hands. You could take up watercolor painting or calligraphy or continue where you left off with knitting or woodworking.

Consider learning a musical instrument or enrolling in a continuing education program you previously didn’t have time for. Some colleges and universities offer discounts to retirees above a certain age.

Here is a list of some lesser-known hobbies that might be of interest: coloring, bullet journaling, blogging, home brewing, podcasting, polymer clay sculpting, videography, upcycling, songwriting, geocaching and becoming a master on the barbecue.

Not only are hobbies fun, but they can keep your brain engaged and give you something to look forward to.

It’s a proven fact that spending time doing the things we enjoy can help delay signs of aging, and the pleasure in participating can lead to positive feelings that can help fight against some illnesses.

Andrea Gallagher, a certified senior advisor, is president of Senior Concerns, a nonprofit agency serving Ventura and western Los Angeles counties. For more information, visit the website www.seniorconcerns.org, and for comments or questions, email agallagher@seniorconcerns.org.

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