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Hook up to a Hobby

Mark Gale

Mark Gale

Author

Health & Wellbeing

Having a hobby can not only be very enjoyable, but studies have shown it can also be hugely beneficial to your mental and physical health

When we’re working, bringing up a family and looking after a house, many of us find we have no time for hobbies. And maybe when we do retire, we feel we are too old to take up new interests. But we couldn’t be more wrong. ‘Being positive and open, willing to try out new things, and engaged with what’s going on around us turns out to be incredibly important in sustaining our wellbeing as we get older,’ says Caroline Abrahams of Age UK. 

A recent study by the charity and the University of Southampton analysed data from 15,000 people aged 60 and over and found that taking part in activities, such as photography, painting and writing, was the most significant factor in boosting wellbeing.  

The social impact of hobbies is also important. It’s a great way to make new friends, as it’s much easier to interact with new people when you are working on something together. Hobbies such as gardening and walking groups, choirs and book or film clubs are ideal for this, and are run at many McCarthy & Stone developments. 

Long-term research by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing has found that engaging in hobbies brings similar health benefits to regular exercise. It also showed that the more groups you are involved with, the fewer the risks to your health, and that people who were members of social groups were also more likely to record a higher quality of life after giving up work. Also, finding a hobby that helps you socialise can boost mental health. If you’ve been feeling low or lonely, it can get you out of the house to meet new friends. 

Crafting has got me through difficult times 

Barbara Till (pictured below, right), 84, lives at the McCarthy & Stone Carrick Court development in Portsmouth, Hampshire, where she oversees the craft room with her friend Sue Betts (pictured below, left). 



‘I used to do a lot of embroidery and cross-stitch and made my children’s clothes when they were young. Then I got into scrapbooking, making memory books, when I visited my daughter in Australia about 30 years ago. She encouraged me to join craft groups here. I lost my husband two years ago and moved into my flat at Carrick Court. That’s the best thing I ever did; everyone is so lovely and we have a craft room, which has been a godsend for me as I have somewhere to keep all my bits and bobs. Crafting has really helped me through difficult times. 

I met my friend Sue Betts here; we bonded through our love of crafting. We have formed a great friendship and have had some very happy times together creating cards, decorative boxes and other paper crafts. Sue loves making cakes, too, and we feed off each other’s ideas. We sell our cards to homeowners here and friends and family, and put some of our profits back into the Carrick Court residents’ fund for outings and special events. 

Everyone should have something to do. I wouldn’t like to get up in the morning and not have things to look forward to. I play indoor bowls as well, so I keep active. I’d be lost without my hobbies, especially now I’m on my own.’

I invented a cider kit 

Dr Nevin Stewart, 61, from Guildford is a retired industrial chemist for BP. After running lettings for his local church and trying his hand as a trained chef in retirement, he got into cider making as a hobby and went on to set up his own company, Juice and Strain.

‘I started making cider in 2012 after a neighbour had a glut of apples and we were pondering what to do with them. We tried to make our own apple juice and cider, but the juicer we used just wasn’t up to it. My background as a chemist came in handy and I started testing and adapting several larger juicers and came up with a single-step juice and strain cider-making system. It worked really well and it knocks spots off the traditional pulp and press method. 

Other cider-makers were interested in it, so what started as a hobby has become a small business called Juice and Strain. Cider-making is a great way to use up home-grown apples. It’s estimated that up to 90 per cent of all garden apples in the UK go to waste – a shocking statistic. The juice from this method can be frozen, enjoyed as pure apple juice or turned into cider. We’ve had interest from around the world. 

We have demonstrated the kit at fairs and exhibitions, including the Grandfest Festival, supported by McCarthy & Stone. My wife, Helen, is a photographer, so she takes the publicity shots and also helps with the business. I’ve gone back to some of my old chemical ideas recently, so I’m trying to get other projects off the ground. There’s definitely life after retirement.’

The Juice and Strain cider-making kit, £212.90, sells through Vigo Presses, vigopresses.co.uk

Image credits: iStock, Peter Smith, Helen Stewart

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