2014 was a very physically challenging year for my father. His mobility has significantly decreased, so I’ve found myself searching the web for hobbies that someone with limited mobility can do to keep an enjoyable quality of life. However, there are really no lists, no ideas, no solutions for people like my dad out there.
My dad broke his back when he was in college, so he suffers from a 40-year spinal cord injury, with resultant para-paresis. He’s been walking with a cane for close to ten years now, and occasionally rides in a wheelchair for longer trips. Unable to be active anymore, he has told me that one of the few enjoyments he has left in life is smoking cigars. This is a terrible hobby! Not only does he stink like a garbage patch, but he’s doing some real damage to his organs. When it’s already hard enough to get around, why would you ruin what strength your lungs and muscles have left?
If my dad gives up smoking, he’s going to be a big grump. So I started doing some research into easy, fun hobbies that don’t require a lot of physical movement that he could try in place of smoking. In attempt to get him (and maybe even you or your loved ones!) to a better state, I’m sharing my list here.
1. DIY and Crafting – This is perhaps one of the most common hobbies that physically limited people are encouraged to take up. However, what if you’re not a big crafter? It’s hard to come up with DIY ideas! Some of my favorite inspiration sources include MakersKits (available online), and easy-craft books like Instacraft, as well as my favorite YouTube personality, LaurDIY. These sources will walk you through craft-making and inspire you to create your own masterpieces.
2. Baking – Who doesn’t enjoy a yummy treat? Taking up baking (and experimenting with new recipes and ingredient combinations) could be a new way to enjoy yourself and give to others. You’ll be warmly welcomed at parties, and friends and family will be dying for your recipes. Live far away from friends and family? Local homeless shelters or churches would be very grateful for donations.
3. Ancestry.com – If you prefer more intellectual stimulation, check out ancestry.com and maybe you can become your family’s very own genealogist. The research, patience, and investigation that goes into compiling your own family history is a great way to engage your mind.
4. Letter Writing – Do you have family members, perhaps children, who should know a little bit more about you? Perhaps you have words of wisdom to share or you want to pass on your own autobiography to ensure your legacy lives on with future generations. No one knows you better than you! Resurrect the fading art of letter writing and strike up a pen pal or two. Everyone loves getting a real letter in the mail, especially with emails dominating person-to-person correspondence. Letter make wonderful keepsakes, too.
- 4.5 Journaling – Some websites suggest writing or journaling as a hobby, but a lot of people can be put off by this idea because they think they’re “not good writers” or they “don’t have anything to say.” The great thing about any kind of writing is that you don't need to show it to anyone if you don't want to! It could be worth a try, whether you need an outlet to vent about your disability or you want to write positive and encouraging thoughts that may someday help someone else. It also allows you to reflect on each day and be present in the “now.” I started journaling one positive thing to happen to me every day. I’ve been doing this consistently for about four months now, and it has successfully changed my outlook on daily living.
5. Photography – You don’t have to move around to get some great photographs. If you live near a park (it could be a neighborhood, state, or even national park), set up a tripod for yourself and wait for a moment you want to capture. It will take patience and limited movement. For example, if you live near a state or national park, it might be a great idea to go where there’s known wildlife traffic or bird migrations. You could set up shop and wait for the right opportunity to get an excellent shot. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be submitting to NatGeo!
6. Scrapbooking –This is another very popular suggestion that I found on the web, but it’s not for everyone. With digital cameras and smart phones housing most of our photos these days, it can seem like a hassle to print off hard copies. So make a modern scrapbook by digitizing old family albums to share with everyone, near and far. Once digitized, you can use websites like Shutterfly to create photobooks (a modern day scrapbook), calendars, and other personalized home goods. It might also be easier if you don't want to go all the way to the craft store to buy actual scrapbooking materials.
7. Write How-To Guides – You’re the pro at being you and heck, maybe you excel at something that your friends and family are unfamiliar with. Write a How-To Guide detailing your tips and tricks to a skill or hobby that you specialize in.
8. Learn a New Language– What better way to challenge yourself and keep your mind occupied than learning a new language? Websites like duolingo.com offer FREE language tutorials for Romantic languages. These sites are easy to use and they actually work.
9. Collecting – Are there knickknacks you’d like to collect? Maybe you’re already a numismatist in the making. Coins, stamps, postcards, coffee mugs…you name it. The options are endless and not only is it a great conversation starter, but you’ll have something to be very proud of!
10. Videogaming – “Vintage” gaming systems like Sega and the original Nintendo are making a comeback and they’re classically fun. Maybe you were addicted to Tetris, Mario, or Sonic the Hedgehog. Relive those games by purchasing some of the reinvented gaming systems or buy apps on your smart phone that will let you play variations of these games. It’s a very easy way to occupy your time and you may find that friends and family will want to challenge your new skill!
11. Become an Expert – Did you know that the study of flags is called vexillology? Did you know you can be an expert in that? Maybe not, but perhaps there are topics you’ve always wanted to know inside and out, like Roman aqueduct construction, volcano life cycles, software engineering, etc…Start doing your research and be passionate!
12. Bird Watching – Similar to photography, this hobby doesn’t require a lot of physical effort. Research where in your area might be good for certain bird migrations or sightings. If the concept is completely foreign to you, see if there’s a local Audubon Society chapter near you. They’ll teach you everything you need to prepare and even explain how you can start your very own life-list.
13. Home Brewing – You’ve got to be meticulous and patient to take a stab at home brewing! There is a lot of time and research that goes into making a great cider or beer, so experiment and see what you and your family like. There will definitely be trial and error with this hobby, so don’t give up if your first batch doesn’t taste like a Guinness.
14. Backyard Astronomy – If you live in suburbia or a rural area, you’ve probably noticed how beautiful the stars can be at night. Check out BackyardAstronomy.com to get your own home kit and the best advice on beginner’s telescopes to learn all about the cosmos.
15. Keep Tabs and Stats – If you have young children involved in team sports, take on the role of team statistician and motivational leader. You can keep tabs on each player’s stats, insert them into personalized Microsoft Excel sheets. The kids will be excited to see their progress and will feel good about their documented achievements. If you’re not into stats, write a fun newsletter for the kids, highlighting each player’s accomplishments. Perhaps it’ll be a play-by-play recap or just recognizing each player for their efforts. The kids will be so grateful and it’ll get them even more excited pre-game because they’ll want to read their name in your newsletter later!
I hope that some of these ideas are new and exciting to you and that you see that life, no matter the cards you’ve been dealt, is full of possibilities.