When I think of a hobby I think of coin collecting or stamp collecting, sewing or knitting, model trains or woodworking. By that score I do not have a hobby.

     When I was a kid I collected coins. I started when a friend of my dad’s gave me ten Indian head pennies for my birthday. I went on to get the coin books and fill them up as best I could. I bought some coins at the old Gimbels department store, and later signed up to receive proofs from the U. S. Treasury.

     Alas, during my high school years my interest in sports and girls surpassed by my interest in coins. Today, my coin collection sits on the floor of my closet. My last acquisition was a roll of World War II steel pennies I bought at a fall festival about 15 years ago. Otherwise, I haven’t looked at my coin collection in decades.      All the retirement experts say we should have a hobby in retirement. A hobby can keep the mind active, provide hours of enjoyment, help with stress, even contribute to self-esteem and provide a sense of identity.

     My brother-in-law is a woodworker. He has a shop in the basement and has crafted many wooden toys for his grandchildren. Another brother-in-law is a gardener, with about two acres of corn, beans and other vegetables in his backyard. He and his wife give away loads of vegetables to friends and family (thank you, thank you!) and eat out of their freezer for much of the winter. 

     I have a few friends who have taken up art in retirement. One is painting. One is doing pottery. Another glasswork. So do you have a hobby? I guess we could consider blogging a hobby, couldn’t we?

     My sister plays bridge twice a week. Is a card game like bridge considered a hobby? My other sister is trying to learn Italian. Is taking a class or learning a language a hobby? How about travel?

     Then there’s golf. A lot of seniors play golf. Is that considered a hobby? Or fishing or sailing or tennis or any other sport? How about just . . . walking?

     I have one relative who’s a movie buff. That might be considered a hobby. But I doubt scrolling through netflix or spending hours watching cable news qualifies as a bona fide hobby.

     What’s the difference between just wasting time and a genuine hobby? I think the difference is that you DO something with a real hobby — not just watch movies, but lead a class or join a cinema club. Not just read books, but take part in a book club or volunteer at the library.

     Studies show that time spent on hobbies can help lower blood pressure, improve our mood, keep things in perspective. They sometimes offer that much-desired state of “flow” — when you’re lost in an art project, a sport or other activity and achieve that feeling of being fully engaged, while worries fall away, self-consciousness disappears and time flies.

     Hobbies can also help us make friends, perhaps replacing some of those we lost when we left work or moved away from our old home. Hobbies also make us more interesting. We don’t talk about work anymore. And eventually our friends get tired of hearing about our grandchildren and all their impressive accomplishments. But people are interested in what we’re doing, especially if it seems important or even just a little bit offbeat.

     It’s never too late to start a hobby. My friend actually produces pretty good paintings, even though he never picked up a paintbrush before he retired. My sister . . . well, she’s hardly fluent in Italian. Not yet anyway. But her halting attempts at the language gave her the motivation to take a trip to Florence and Venice, before Covid. And now she’s planning a post-Covid trip, this time to Rome and southern Italy.

     Buona fortuna e avere una pensione felice!

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