Hand Crafts: Knitting, Crocheting, Quilting
At one time the classic picture of granny was an old woman with a serene look on her face knitting while sitting in a rocking chair. Today, hand crafts like knitting, crocheting and quilting are still popular with people of all ages. What has made them survive in today’s digital world? The answer may be in scientific studies that have been done to show that knitting, crocheting, quilt making and other hand crafts really have health benefits, especially for seniors. There was a reason for the contented look on granny’s face, but scientific evidence shows that hand crafts are just as healthy for grandpa.
Reduces Stress, Lowers Blood Pressure
These are not only relaxing activities, but studies show that engaging in these kinds of hand crafts can reduce stress. The relaxation experienced by working with hand crafts can also lower blood pressure.
Improves Motor Use in Hands, Eye Hand Coordination
Women suffering from arthritis reported some improvement in the use of their hands – less pain and stiffness. Occupational therapists use knitting as a way to improve or develop fine motor skills in seniors with illnesses like Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, eye-hand coordination is strengthened by hand crafts.
Improves Cognitive Function in Seniors
A study on aging by the Mayo Clinic in 2011 on 1,321 seniors ages 70-89, 179 of whom had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed that hand crafts like knitting and quilting, reading books, computer activities and playing games can help prevent MCI and memory loss. Since seniors with MCI are at a high risk for developing full-blown dementia, this study was very significant.
Some occupational therapists also report success using knitting therapy with seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s because even though they have problems with short-term memory, many of them still remember knitting skills they had once learnt in the past.
Producing useful handmade items also boosts self-confidence in seniors. They feel useful and productive by making all kinds of beautiful gifts and the compliments they receive further raises their self-esteem.
Too Busy to Notice Aches and Pains and Snack
Knitting also keeps seniors busy with less time to focus on their aches and pains and medical problems. Some claim that knitting also keeps them from snacking out of boredom and thus helps them control their weight.
Helps to Combat Depression
Studies show that knitting has positive effects on people suffering from depression. Since seniors have a high rate of depression this is welcome news.
Make new Friends
Knitting therapy groups and quilting bees also help seniors make friends and get out of the feelings of isolation that many experience. Some of the groups make items that are donated to charity and this furthers the feelings of seniors that they are doing something purposeful with their lives by helping people in need.
Adequate Lighting, Comfortable Seating
It is very important to have adequate lighting and comfortable chairs while engaging in hand crafts. A foot rest will take the strain off the lower back and keep people from slumping. Seniors should also be encouraged to take small frequent breaks by standing up and stretching or walking around a bit, as sitting too much is bad for the back and neck. Knitting and crocheting patterns should be printed out using large fonts to lessen eye strain.
Great Activity for the Bed-ridden
Knitting and crocheting can also be done by bed-ridden people. This works best if they can be propped up with pillows so that their arms can rest on a cushion over their chests. If they are flat on their backs their arms will get tired from being held up in the air while knitting. Being able to do something productive, even while bedridden, really boosts self-esteem and combats feelings of despair and depression.
Hand crafts like knitting, crocheting and quilting have so many health benefits, both physical and mental for seniors that they should be incorporated into their therapeutic regimen. Caregivers and family members should seek out places in their neighborhoods that offer hand crafted activities.