Playing the piano, singing, dancing and owning your own home boost wellbeing in later life, data from 15,000 people shows.
While many factors combine to create wellbeing, keeping engaged in social and cultural activities, being financially secure and taking exercise helps people feel good as they age.
The Wellbeing Index report, from Age UK and the University of Southampton, analysed data from 15,000 people aged 60 and over.
It looked at how people were doing in five key areas - social, personal, health, financial and their local environment.
The results showed that taking part in creative activities such as the arts had the most direct influence in improving a person’s wellbeing in later life.
Activities included dancing, playing a musical instrument, visiting museums, photography, singing, painting and writing.
Other things were also strong contributors to wellbeing, such as being in good health, having an “open” personality and having a large social network.
The report found that all the people in the top fifth for wellbeing were involved in some form of creative and cultural activity. They were also four times more likely than the bottom fifth to be involved in social pursuits, such as being a member of a social or sports club.
Most (95 per cent) had two or more friends and nine out of ten also did some form of exercise.
Those in the top fifth for wellbeing had considerably higher thinking skills in cognitive tests – such as numeracy and recalling words – compared to those in the bottom fifth.
Only one out of five people in the top fifth lived alone, and while one in five cared for another person, they did so less intensely than those in the bottom fifth.
People in this group also rated neighbourliness higher while 75 per cent had no long-standing illness or disability.
Some 85 per cent also owned their own home outright and had an average financial wealth of over £50,000. Meanwhile, people in the bottom fifth had lower cognitive skills.