Positive Aging: The Importance of Hobbies

Marilyn Murray Willison on

10) Eliminates bad habits and wasting time while simultaneously challenging you.

I hadn't thought much about hobbies because, to me, my chosen pastimes (needlepoint and reading) seem like essential activities. But when I was reading the book "Happiness Is A Choice You Make" and learning about Fred Jones, one of the "oldest old" the author observed, I was struck by Jones' recall of his younger wardrobe. This elderly man who was rarely able to maneuver outside of his building to launder his clothes once owned 83 pairs of socks, 25 belts and 15 handkerchiefs.

I was intrigued by his haberdashery hobby because, here in South Florida, I have a friend who is also a member of "oldest old" and has a unique wardrobe obsession. Howard Fader is a 90-year-old former New Yorker who now lives in Boca Raton. Every Wednesday morning, he drives 27 miles to be first in line for Senior Discount Day at World Thrift, a large thrift store near my home that supports Vietnam War vets. Each week, a number of 18-wheelers bring high-quality items -- books, china, clothes, decorative items, games, linens, shoes and toys -- from homes, outlets and retail stores in Pennsylvania and New York, where they are oftentimes sold for pennies on the dollar.

Since Howard and I usually see each other every Wednesday morning, we have become friendly acquaintances. When he learned that my husband had died last summer, he immediately pulled out his wallet to show me a photo of him and his wife that had been taken over 50 years earlier. They looked like movie stars from the 1950s, and I could tell how much he missed her even though she had died over a decade ago.

Howard's hobby is collecting Tommy Bahama shirts, and he currently owns 122 of them -- each carefully cataloged in a bulging photo album. I have never seen Howard wear any other type of shirt, and each week his watch, shoes and shorts are carefully color coordinated to match the pattern of that day's Tommy Bahama shirt.


If pressed, Howard will tell you about his earlier years in Brooklyn, or the 68 cars he's owned -- 35 Cadillacs, nine Corvettes, etc. -- or a variety of other aspects of his life. But the thing he most enjoys discussing is his collection of Tommy Bahama shirts, especially the fact that they retail for over $100 but, at our local thrift store, he nabs them for under $15.

Like I said, it's a "pennies on the dollar" hobby for Howard that -- from my perspective -- is priceless.


Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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