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13 ways to keep your mind and body active in retirement

The CDC recommends adults over 65 get 150 minutes of exercise activity a week — that’s just over 20 minutes per day. 

A 2023 AARP survey found that those who reached that 150-minute exercise goal rated their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being — as well as their ability to handle stress — higher than those who didn’t.

As we age, it’s important to move our bodies — but keeping our minds active is crucial too.

More and more, seniors are finding that retirement gives them more opportunities than ever to expand their horizons, discover new hobbies, and redefine what the word “active” means to them.

Want to know how to stay active in retirement, beyond getting on a treadmill? Here are more than 13 ideas.

Physical movement

According to the National Council on Aging, regularly doing physical activities you enjoy can help prevent bone loss, relieve pain from osteoporosis, boost immunity, improve mood and even prevent chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

These options range from trendy and new to tried and true.

A group of Bentley Village residents enjoys a round of golf.

Join a group game.

Pickleball, bocce and golf are a top choice for many seniors—and for good reason!

In addition to getting your heart rate up, this time with friends and teammates can also boost feelings of social connectivity.

Go with the flow.

Not everyone has the same level of mobility as they age.

Thankfully, there are plenty of gentle-movement activities to explore, like chair yoga, water aerobics, or tai chi. (NPR recently reported on a study that found significant increases in cognitive function for participants who did tai chi just twice a week for six months!)

Tip: Considering a move to senior living? Ask for a copy of their fitness center’s class schedule to see how it fits with your lifestyle. 

Think outside the gym.

Outdoor activities like gardening, browsing the farmer’s market, or walking to meet a friend for coffee can also be a great way to get your heart rate up and rack up those exercise minutes.

Hobbies and culture

Retirement can also be a fantastic time to pick up a long-forgotten hobby or try something completely new. Looking for something to dip your toes into?

Get your hands dirty.

Some folks try their hand at a new craft or pick up a paintbrush for the first time in retirement. Ready to explore? 

Initiatives like the Vitality Arts Project encourage art museums to create programming for seniors looking for creative expression — you may find something similar at your favorite gallery or museum.

You may also be surprised to find a local woodworking or pottery school nearby with just a quick Google search.

March to your own beat.

Why not explore a longtime musical curiosity or rekindle your love for a childhood instrument?

You may be surprised to find a number of just-for-fun musical ensembles in your community, from come-as-you-are choruses to all-levels orchestras.

Vi Tones, Vi at Silverstone’s community choir

Soak up the arts.

Got a tin ear or just love to be a spectator? Absorb culture instead through concerts, theater performances, art exhibits and more.

As an added bonus, many cultural organizations offer discounted prices on tickets and passes to seniors — so take advantage of them!

Intellectual pursuits

Still wondering how to stay active in retirement? Don’t forget about keeping your brain going with activities like this.

Gab with a group.

Book clubs, discussion groups and lectures are hugely popular activities among seniors.

Look to local higher education institutions, community centers and libraries to begin your quest for a group that piques your interest. Your local newspaper’s website may also have a list of community groups you could join.

Tip: Some senior living communities work closely with institutions to give residents unparalleled access to continuing education.
Find your game.

Card and board games like bridge and chess are also great ways to stay engaged mentally and build cognitive skills like memory, planning, attention span and problem-solving.

Don’t have pals to play with? Local senior centers and the YMCA are great places to look for a new partner or groups who love the same games as you. (Or, you can find plenty of websites to play your favorite games online right at home.)

Four people sit together at a bridge table.

Start your day sharp.

Love to start your mornings catching up on the day’s news? Flip to the daily crossword for an extra brain boost!

A recent study published in NEJM Evidence showed significant improvement in cognitive function for those with mild cognitive impairment who spent 30 minutes per day doing crossword puzzles, four days a week.

Write down your memories.

You may also consider keeping a daily journal…or think bigger! Perhaps write a memoir or other recollection of your life’s events for younger generations.

Online services like StoryWorth make it even easier to get your story down on “paper” by offering regular writing prompts that they later compile into books for loved ones to enjoy.

Spiritual enrichment

We can’t forget about keeping our hearts engaged in retirement — well-being is a whole-person pursuit! 

Look inward.

Regular meditation or even taking a few minutes each day to do light stretching or breathing exercises can create a deep mind-body connection with benefits that have been explored in hundreds of studies, from lower stress levels to better sleep and even improvements in blood pressure.

Convenient smartphone apps like Calm and Headspace are perfect for beginners, but even your Apple Watch can give you some simple cues to focus on breathing regularly throughout the day.

Gaze upward.

Many seniors feel a call to continue or renew their faith in retirement by regularly attending worship services. This could also be a great time to explore a new faith you’re curious about.

If you’re already involved with a church, synagogue, or other house or worship, find out whether there are scripture studies or other groups and activities designed just for seniors.

Tip: Many senior living communities, including Vi, offer transportation to nearby houses of worship.

Serve outward!

Being involved in your community as a volunteer can also offer spiritual enrichment. Donating time and energy to organizations you love staves off loneliness and social isolation and just feels good.

Organizations like the U.S. government’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program or AmeriCorps’s senior offshoot for aging volunteers offer so many ways to get involved — tap in and hook up!

Residents walk with two small dogs.
How will you stay active in retirement?

Yes, we’d all ideally get in 150 minutes of physical movement per week! 

But staying active in general — and finding your own balance of physical, mental, and spiritual “activity” — in ways that are meaningful to you is a great place to start.

If you’d like to learn more about staying active at Vi at Lakeside Village, get in touch.