As we grow older, things that were once good fun can start to feel like a chore. For a simple example of this, summon to mind all the sixty-plus-year-old people who’ve taken up a new and novel hobby in the past 12 months. They’ll be people for whom this is not the case, of course. But, in the context of the old adage, the exception that proves the rule, you’ll find many more rules than exceptions.
Not that this is in any way unusual. Old-age cantankerousness, novelty-aversion and general misanthropy are culturally recognised and celebrated phenomena. In the British sitcom One Foot in the Grave, Victor Meldrew is forever railing against modern tomfoolery, much to the delight of the audience.
And in as much as Victor Meldrew’s mistrust of newness can be taken as a philosophical/political orientation, its association with age is scientifically verifiable. To look again to an old saying, if you’re not a liberal in your 20s you’ve no heart; and if you’re not a conservative in your 50s you’ve no brain.
However, as much as the elderly have earned their right to complain, it may not always be in their best interest. New research shows that hobbies can help ward off the onset of many health conditions associated with old age. The causality is not exactly clear. It might be that the positive effects on well-being act on the psychological level. In the case of some hobbies, it may be that the exercise of cognitive faculties has a more direct biological manifestation. In any case, the news is in; wake up and smell the coffee – taking part in new experiences is good for the elderly.
The next question, of course, is what, exactly, should you try to do. For those for whom physicality has never been a priority, but who fear a mental decline, there are many options on the table. The internet, particularly, is of help here. You can relive your razzle-dazzle years with online slot machines, play chess, or take up a more specifically orientated brain-training programme. Online casino games particularly are associated with halting the neural ageing process. This is due to its engaging various and diverse mental faculties: calculating probability and detecting a bluff are quite desperate skills, but they come together at the digital card table.
If, on the other hand, you are someone who values the life lived through the body, there are plenty of age-friendly ways to stay active. Chief in finding meaningful release and medical benefit in a physical pursuit, in your old age, is picking your battles. It’s unlikely that weight training or HIIT will be much fun or much help, but there is a lot of fun to be had in exercise.
Elegant sports which elevate skill as opposed to raw fitness are a good bet. Badminton is a great example of this; similarly, long-term health pursuits in which you see incremental gain, such as walking, can be of great benefit. These suggestions by no means cover the full gamut of what can be undertaken in old age – obviously. In old age, wars are won, eternal questions answered and great works produced: there is no shelf-life on human potential. However, if you’re not in this Herculean contingent, staying active will nudge you a little closer to it.