HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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1. Learn the right form for a particular shot before playing. A coach can teach you the correct grip, posture and other aspects of playing well.

2. Don’t swing the mallet from your wrists; instead, swing it from your shoulders in a pendulum motion.

3. Keep your head down while swinging; raise it once the ball is hit. Raising your head earlier causes your shoulder to move, and you may spoil the shot.

4. Practice unfamiliar moves.

5. Find a natural, comfortable grip on the mallet. It should not rotate when you tighten your grip.

6. Don’t lean too far forward. Position your feet so the mallet can be drawn back without striking your ankle or foot.

In croquet, players use a mallet to hit wooden or plastic balls through hoops or wickets embedded in a grass playing court. People of both genders and all ages play croquet. Many Americans, adults and children alike, play nine-wicket croquet in public parks and back yards across the United States. Six-wicket croquet, a complex sport played at croquet clubs all over the world, requires only four balls and two to four adult players.


In the United States, three forms of croquet are played: International Association croquet; American six-wicket croquet; and American nine-wicket croquet. All three forms use the same equipment and lawn, but nine- wicket croquet has nine hoops or wickets and two pegs or stakes. A simplified version of Association croquet is golf croquet, which is also played in many countries. National Croquet Day is celebrated June 5 in the United Kingdom.


Almost anyone can play croquet, including those in wheelchairs and those who use walkers. Croquet has therapeutic benefits for people with dementia. It gives participants the benefits of social engagement, cognitive stimulation and physical exercise while having a good time. James Creasey founded Jiminy Wicket, a Colorado-based non- profit that introduces the game to Alzheimer’s patients in long-term care facilities and senior centers. According to Creasey, croquet is the ideal sport for people

HOBBIES: CROQUET - MANY PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD ENJOY POPULAR GAME

suffering from dementia. The four balls are easy to identify becausethey are different colors. The grass on a croquet lawn is flat so the ball goes in a straight line and leaning on the mallet helps with balance. Moreover, croquet is low cost and intergenerational.


“For me, the social factor is a huge part of my attraction to the game,” said Tom Teater, who regularly plays in the annual Henry Clay Croquet Tournament at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate in Lexington. “The slower pace of croquet really allows players the opportunity to talk and enjoy the company of friends. I enjoy the competitive aspects of the game. The size of your opponent doesn’t matter on the course; it is all about skill and commitment to practice time.”


But even as he competes, Teater experiences a Zenlike calm. “I find croquet to be very relaxing,” he said. “It is one of the few times I find myself totally relaxed, playing with friends and being outdoors on a beautiful summer afternoon.”


If you’re new to the game, here are some tips for playing croquet:

HARLEENA SINGH

Harleena Singh is a professional freelance writer and blogger who has a keen interest in health and wellness. She can be approached through her blog (www.aha-now.com) and Web site, www.harleenasingh.com. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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