Intergenerational hobbies for seniors to enjoy

There are many advantages in cultivating intergenerational relationships for both seniors and youth, and there’s probably no better way to meet new people from another generation than through a mutually satisfying hobby. Hobbies can help you relax, de-stress, and keep you mentally and physically active.1 Having a beloved hobby or two helps you discover hidden talents and stay enthusiastic and passionate about new things.

Benefits of developing intergenerational connections

The benefits of intergenerational friendships and connections are well recognised.2 For children and young adults, these connections help them develop emotionally and socially, build self-esteem and confidence, and understand their role in the community and the wider world.2

Research shows that mentorship from an adult can reduce the risk of drug use by 46 per cent and alcohol use by 27 per cent.2 Children who are mentored by an adult are also 52 per cent less likely to skip school.2

Some children also experience positive benefits such as improvements in their academic performance, along with decreases in negative behaviour and increased stability.3

For seniors, the benefits can include the joyful freedom of interacting with children, youth, and grandkids without the burden of parental responsibility.2 Seniors with close intergenerational connections tend to have lower rates of depression, enjoy better physical health, and experience higher degrees of life satisfaction.2

Through intergenerational activities, seniors can enjoy enhanced socialisation benefits as well as stimulated learning from their younger counterparts.3 The intergenerational experience can give them increased emotional support, reduce loneliness and boredom, and increase self-esteem and health outcomes.3

For example, research has shown that seniors who regularly volunteer with children burn 20% more calories, have fewer falls, rely less on canes, and do better on memory tests.3

For all generations, intergenerational projects and the resultant deeper connections they form can lead to stronger, more vibrant communities, and foster a positive community culture.4 Pursuing hobbies together could lead to less distrust between generations and friendlier communities.5 Intergenerational projects have the potential to promote local citizenship, reduce crime rates, regenerate neighbourhoods, and even address inequality issues.6

Ideas for intergenerational hobbies

If you find a hobby that matches your interests, you will be more likely to find the time and energy to do it regularly. By finding a hobby that all generations will enjoy, you will have a wonderful starting point for developing deeper intergenerational connections. Use these ideas to get inspired about finding a new hobby that may result in rewarding intergenerational friendships, and strengthening existing intergenerational connections.

1. Lawn bowls

While lawn bowls have long been a classic and favourite of seniors, it’s now ‘cool’ among younger members of the community who have come up with their own relaxed version of the sport. Lawn bowls is a low impact, therapeutic form of exercise7 that improves fitness, coordination and confidence.

Lawn bowls also enhances community connectedness and support, which is a great way for both you and your inter-generational teammates to make new friends. ‘Barefoot bowls’ has no dress code or shoes8, and is the common new form of the sport the younger generation has adopted. As a senior, you could invite older grandchildren along to your next bowls game, or set up inter-generational matches on the weekends with friends and family.

2. Community gardens

Community gardens are another excellent intergenerational activity that gives you an opportunity to work side by side to grow delicious, healthy fruit and vegetables. Other benefits for growing your own garden or participating in a community garden include health promotion, social inclusion, environmental concern, connection to nature and creative expression.9

Children love watching things grow; maintaining a garden by collaborating with children can help them build self-confidence, learn responsibility, and enhance their social and communication skills. For seniors, the gentle physical activity and the socialisation benefits can be invaluable.

There are many ways to operate community gardens. Some ideas include donating the food to community banks, holding agriculture and environmental classes, and holding special events such as musical concerts, picnics, and festivals.5

3. Skill exchanges

If you have a hobby that involves skills or special knowledge, explore ways in which you can exchange skills with younger generations. For example, you could teach your mentees how to cook, compose resumes, or speak another language. In exchange, your mentees could teach you IT skills and help you set up your tablets and devices.

In collaboration with younger people, you can both play the role of student and teacher. Adults involved in close intergenerational connections consistently reported less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction.2

4. Cooking clubs

Food brings people together in a unique way, and both younger and older children often have a native curiosity about cooking and preparing food. If you enjoy cooking, join an intergenerational cooking club or set up your own monthly cooking club.

Kids of all ages learn many vital skills from cooking with other people such as social skills, communication skills, and collaboration.11 Options include growing food and shopping together, hands-on cooking classes, and of course, eating together. A variation on the cooking club is the restaurant club, in which members pick out a new place to sample food together.

5. Tai Chi and meditation

If you think you might enjoy Tai Chi, meditation, or any relaxing practice with a spiritual component to it, you can set up your own intergenerational classes and either teach them yourself or invite a teacher to lead these classes.

There is evidence Tai Chi enhances sleep quality and the immune system; lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure; improves joint pain; improves symptoms of congestive heart failure; and improves general wellbeing in older adults as well as reduce their risk of falls.12

6. Brain games, puzzle solving, and trivia games

People of all ages can enjoy brain games, crossword puzzles, and trivia games. Start a collection of board games, jigsaw puzzles, brain teasers, cards, and chess sets. This type of hobby can activate the interest of younger players and keep seniors mentally active.

Games such as maths problem solving improves cognitive functions and can even benefit brain functions during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.13

7. Model building

Model building can help you maintain and build physical dexterity, and it’s an activity children will enjoy, too. With ready-made model-build sets, you can build model boats, ships, and structures such as castles, along with miniature trains, airplanes, and automobiles.

Lego models are also popular with younger children. When building models, you and your building partner can get creative, thinking of different scenarios for the roles played with the set, creating stories and interesting backgrounds for the models you create.14

8. Start an aquarium

Get your young friends or grandkids involved by building an aquarium from scratch. You can involve them in picking the tank, accessories, stones, and fish; and spend an afternoon filling up the tank and releasing the fish into the water. Kids will enjoy feeding the fish and watching them grow.

Building an aquarium and being able to enjoy it on a daily basis has also been linked to a number of mental and psychological benefits, through feeling a connectedness to nature.15

9. Book club

Many children and young adults enjoy reading, so a book club could be a great way for you to spend time together with others and discuss everyone’s favourite book of the month. If you can’t find a book club near you, you could start your own.

Book clubs provide lifelong benefits for people of all ages, as reading expands your horizons, with the in-depth discussions you’ll have with other people at the book club assimilating different viewpoints and increasing your knowledge. We’ve put together a list of 10 books that will make you laugh, cry and feel better about getting older – why not start there?

10. Exploring the outdoors

Outdoor activities help you stay active as you deepen your connections with the younger generations. For example, you could build your own kites and fly them, or go camping and birdwatching. Biking, boating, walking, and hiking are all popular ways to enjoy the outdoors. Don’t forget about water activities such as snorkelling and diving, swimming, and windsurfing.

If you’re feeling especially daring, you could go beyond your comfort zone with activities such as gliding, hot air ballooning, and surfing. Children learn by being curious and asking questions, with early experiences in nature being linked to a child’s imagination development.17 Getting outdoors benefits people of all ages.