5 Enriching Hobbies for Seniors To Increase Their Social Fitness

Health + Wellness   |   By HumanGood

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What’s the biggest predictor of a long and healthy life? Think it’s living on fruits and vegetables? Good genes? Spending your day on the treadmill? Think again. We’re social animals (even when we don’t feel like it). And research consistently shows that social connections are the key ingredient in the recipe for long-term well-being. 

In the Harvard Study of Adult Development, researchers have followed a group of original participants and their descendants for more than eight decades. Their data points strongly to the importance of a rich variety of social connections. People with these relationships live longer, healthier lives, even in spite of other risk factors. And the benefits apply to everyone — not just extroverts or people with excellent social skills. 

Hobbies are a powerful tool for social connection. They can make relationships richer, inspire you to connect to new and different people, and bridge communication gaps with shared interests. It’s never too late to boost your social fitness by enriching your network of friends, acquaintances and neighbors. The benefits begin immediately and can last for the rest of your life. 

These hobbies for seniors can help you learn new skills, cultivate strong relationships and ensure the next chapter of your life is your best yet. 


1. Pets 

Your social network isn’t limited only to humans. Your furry, finned or scaly friends are also important social connections. Pet ownership offers a myriad of benefits, including

  • A reason to stay mentally active — after all, you have to learn how to offer the best possible care to your four-legged friend. 

  • An incentive to get moving. 

  • Lower rates of loneliness, anxiety and depression. 

  • Stress management. 

  • Lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.

Pets make it easy to stay socially active, whether you have a friendly dog or a quiet little fish. Some options include: 

  • Take a furry pet out into the world to socialize and exercise. Head to the dog park, a pet playground or a meetup for pet owners. Have a nontraditional pet? Reptile and bird shows are great places to meet people. 

  • Join a club committed to your chosen pet. 

  • Use your pet as an icebreaker. Chat housetraining, agility competitions or barking with a new acquaintance. 

  • Schedule a recurring playdate for your pet. This can also serve as regular, predictable socialization for you. 

2. Community Service

Community service can lend life a sense of purpose while improving your corner of the world. Volunteering is also great for your physical and mental health. Research suggests it can lower stress, reduce depression and loneliness, encourage people to stay active and restore a sense of meaning. Volunteers are healthier than people who don’t volunteer. 

Some great options for older adults include: 

  • Snuggling with or walking animals at your local animal shelter. 

  • Preparing and serving meals at a soup kitchen. 

  • Stocking a local food pantry. 

  • Volunteering for a crisis hotline. 

  • Mentoring a young person as a volunteer grandparent. 

  • Nurturing injured wildlife at your local wildlife rehabilitation facility. 

Consider gathering a group together for a recurring service project, such as cleaning up a community park or making care packages for people with housing insecurity. Or, if you don’t have a group, begin building one by becoming a regular volunteer somewhere. 

Some volunteer roles are quite demanding and offer a chance to learn new skills. For example, you might train as a wildlife rehabilitator or domestic violence counselor. This offers the added benefit of staying intellectually active by mastering a new skill. 

Check out the United Way’s volunteer match tool to find a volunteer opportunity in your area.


3. Activism 

Your experiences have probably taught you a lot about the challenges and triumphs of life. Now’s your chance to leave the world a little better than you found it. Activism is all about standing up for what you believe in, so you can build stronger, safer, better communities. 

Almost by definition, activism is social. That’s because people are stronger when they come together, whether it’s helping to register people to vote or protesting pollution in your neighborhood. If you’re new to activism, volunteering is a great way to get started. Some other options include: 

  • Sign up to be a poll worker to ensure people can safely exercise their right to vote. 

  • Partner with a local organization to register people to vote. 

  • Attend meetings of your local government so you can better understand what’s happening and get involved. 

  • Run for political office. Especially at the local level, there are often openings for qualified, committed people. 

Fighting for what you feel is right is inherently rewarding. And when you and others are working toward a shared goal, it becomes easier to build lasting, meaningful connections. 

What is a life plan community?

4. Hobby Clubs

Make your hobby more social by joining a club of like-minded folks. Hobby-related clubs are also a great way to cultivate a new hobby or enhance your skills. Here are some great places to get started: 

Life Plan Communities offer a range of clubs and organizations too. And if you’re looking for other opportunities, here are some places to get started: 

  • Your local senior center.

  • A library near your home.

  • Your church, mosque or synagogue.

  • A community recreation center. 

  • A local bookstore. 

  • A university or community college.


5. Online Organizations

Walking into an unfamiliar setting can feel overwhelming. But online organizations can help bridge the gap if you’re shy or hesitant. These organizations allow you to connect over hobbies online. You might join the discussion board for your local gardening club, the Facebook group for a pet community or a Reddit page for a local plant sale and trade group. To get the most out of these groups, though, consider choosing one with an in-person component.

Participate in the online discussion long enough to get to know people. These discussions can help boost your confidence and make it feel less daunting to eventually connect in person. By the time you head to an in-person meetup, you may have already made some friends who can help soothe any social anxiety you might feel. 


Making Connection Easier

Hobbies for seniors offer a door to greater social connection no matter what activities you choose. Some tips that can help make it easier to connect include: 

  • Ask people about themselves. Most people love talking about themselves. 

  • Offer warm, genuine, positive feedback. You might compliment a plant club member on their gorgeous monstera. 

  • Get to know the community’s culture by quietly observing. 

  • Ask questions about a shared hobby. Many people are eager to teach others about the things they love. 

A Life Plan Community (LPC) is an excellent launchpad for more social relationships and meaningful hobbies for senior residents. Enjoy a rich variety of amenities, live music, classes, clubs and more. Many older adults find that LPCs make it easier to lead a rich, socially connected life because you no longer have to worry about home maintenance, meal planning and preparation, and landscaping. Instead, simply lock your door and head out on your next adventure, confident that your friends and neighbors will be thrilled to see you upon your return. 

Learn more about the benefits of Life Plan Communities in our free resource, “The Complete Guide to Life Plan Communities.”


What is a life plan community?

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