It’s unsettling when your dad stops doing the things he loves. His
favorite activities don’t just make him happy; they keep him
physically, mentally and socially active, which can have substantial
health benefits for isolated seniors. When Dad stops doing the things
he loves, not only is he losing these benefits, he may also be showing
signs of deeper problems.
It's important to be very aware of changes to your loved one's daily
life so that when you notice that he's stopped doing the things he
loves, you can quickly react by either scheduling medical follow up, or
investigating additional care for Dad at the house. Because as you’ll
discover, it is critical they he remains active.
Benefits of Physical Activity
If your loved one always enjoyed exercise, then it's essential to
stress physical activity. Staying physically active can help slow
the inevitable muscle atrophy experienced by older people.
reduce a senior’s chance of falling, and the worrying health risks
that accompany falls.
Physical activity can also:
Increase life expectancy
Reduce blood pressure
Reduce the risk of medical problems including heart disease and
Maintain healthy joints
Improve mood and reduce anxiety
If seniors stay mobile longer, this can help them remain socially
active and avoid isolation and depression.
Benefits of Mental Activity
Keeping your loved one’s mind active can be just as beneficial. Staying
mentally active can
delay mental decline, including slowing the advancement of dementia
The National Institute on Aging says that mental stimulation builds
which helps the brain to cope with the changes that aging brings, as
well as making seniors feel
“happier and healthier.”
The benefits are not just seen while the senior is carrying out the
mental activity. Studies by the University of Florida showed that
seniors who were mentally active showed
“long-lasting improvements in memory, reasoning and speed of
processing” over five years after the period of activity.
Benefits of Socializing
As well as the mental and physical benefits of their favorite
activities, seniors may also be socializing while they walk with a
group or play chess, for example. Socializing
has also been shown to slow cognitive decline.
Seniors who are frequently socially active
are 70 percent less likely to decline cognitively.
If your dad has stopped participating in his favorite diversions, what
could be causing his lack of interest? There are a few possibilities.
Seniors are more prone to depression than the general population. The
National Alliance on Mental Illness says more than
six million American seniors live with depression. Only
10 percent of seniors with depression receive treatment and the
symptoms of depression are often confused with signs of mental
have lower serotonin levels, which makes it harder to balance
they can be isolated and lonely, which can also be a cause of
The Mayo Clinic names loss of interest in hobbies
as a symptom of depression, and other symptoms include:
Feelings of sadness
Lower appetite and weight loss
If your loved one exhibits these symptoms on top of withdrawing from
their favorite activities, you should seek medical advice.
Your loved one might also be shying away from favorite activities
because he is physically less able to participate. From cycling to
chess, disruptive physical conditions like arthritis can make any
activity challenging. A decline in eyesight only enhances the
symptoms of physical decline in seniors, according to the Mayo
Loss of mobility
Loss of dexterity
Weakened bones more likely to break
Loss of coordination
Even if your senior is still relatively active, the University of
Alabama recommends asking two questions that can help show if a senior
is losing mobility:
Do you have difficulty climbing 10 steps or walking a quarter of a
mile, or have you modified the way you climb 10 steps or walk a
quarter of a mile?
If the answer to either is yes, your loved one should consider
consulting a physician.
Symptoms of declining mental faculties range from the usual things that
everyone experiences, like forgetting a name of an acquaintance or
misplacing your wallet, to more severe types of dementia like
Alzheimer’s or Lewy body. As with physical limitations, mental decline
could be causing your senior to withdraw from things like puzzles or
cards. Symptoms of
declining mental faculties include:
Forgetting things more often, especially important events
Losing the train of thought
Being overwhelmed by decisions
Having trouble with directions in familiar environments
Showing poor judgment
If your loved one is showing any of these symptoms along with
withdrawing from his favorite hobbies, you should seek medical
How to Help
As discussed, your loved one’s favorite hobbies are brimming with
benefits, so ensuring he can continue doing these things to the best of
his abilities is essential.
Professional home care may be one way to help. Professional caregivers
can help remove the barriers between his favorite hobbies and his
evolving needs. They can offer vital companionship and support in
battling depression. Professional caregivers can physically help him by
accompanying him on walks, dealing cards or by helping him fill in his
crossword puzzle. They can also help him exercise to prevent further
decline and keep doing the things he loves into the future. If the
barriers to participation are mental, professional caregivers could
offer something as simple as conversation, a friend to speak with when
no family is available.
And if your loved one's lack of interest in his favorite things is a
symptom of more significant issues, consider experienced caregiving to
manage his condition, keep him as independent as possible, and
hopefully facilitate doing the things he loves for many years to come.