Crafting is an activity enjoyed by the young, the old, and everyone in between, but is perhaps more cherished during senior years when decades of nostalgia have had a chance to accumulate. If you had a favorite crocheted blanket from your childhood made by a grandparent, imagine when it comes time for you to be the grandparent crocheting a blanket for your own grandchildren. As we age, our mobility often becomes limited, so making crafts also becomes one of the few activities in which seniors can actively participate. Beyond nostalgia and helping to pass the time, crafts for seniors come with a variety of health benefits.
The health benefits of popular crafts for seniors include:
Improved cognitive ability
Strengthened immune system
Decreased risk of cognitive impairment
Improved motor skills
Lower blood pressure
And so many more! While crafting may not often be on a doctor’s list of prescribed medicines, it’s a surefire way to improve the health of seniors. Many of the benefits are linked to one another — reduced stressed results in a better immune system and lower blood pressure, for example. The even better news is that crafting can improve the health of both caregivers and seniors alike and is also an activity that can be enjoyed together.
5 Popular Crafts for Seniors
There are many types of crafts to choose from and each come with their own set of health and wellness benefits. However, health conditions such as arthritis can impair a senior’s ability to make crafts, which is why the support of a home caregiver can be helpful. If you’re looking for crafting ideas, below are five popular crafts for seniors that are proven to improve well-being:
This type of craft can be simple or complex, and is suitable for people of all ages and crafting skill levels. Decoupage involves turning an ordinary object — like a cardboard box — into something colorful and unique by pasting cutouts of paper onto the object in a seamless way. There are several options for adhesives and materials. Many decoupage crafters incorporate upcycling into their projects by choosing old wrapping paper and objects that would otherwise be discarded, such as a glass jar or plastic food container. The eco-friendly idea behind decoupage is reusing materials and transforming them into works of art.
Health benefits of decoupage center around improving fine motor skills and dexterity. Using your fingers to rip and place the tiny pieces of paper trains the muscles and brain to attune fine motor skill movements. Decoupage is a simple craft that requires easy focus, which calms the mind and reduces stress. The colors and patterns of paper also stimulate certain areas of the brain, improving cognition.
Knitting and Crocheting
Did you know that knitting and crocheting are proven mood boosters? A study published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, found that 81% of respondents described feeling happier after knitting. The study also found improved rates of cognitive function and an increase in happiness for those who suffered from depression. Knitting and crocheting enhance dexterity and coordination. Holding knitting needles or a crochet hook improves visual-spatial and hand-eye coordination skills, which tend to decrease after we reach our senior years.
Many seniors already know how to knit or crochet, but if not, home caregivers can help by facilitating instructions. Videos online, personal tutorials, community classes, and directions from books are all ways to learn how to knit or crochet. It’s okay to start small and work your way up to bigger projects — it’s the act of knitting and crocheting that provides health benefits, not the scale of the project. This means that whether you are crocheting a granny square or knitting a blanket with complex patterns, you gain the same benefits.
The beautiful thing about painting is that there are dozens of styles to choose from. Running the gamut from fine art to paint-by-numbers, seniors can choose one or more styles that is best suited to them. There are also many types of surfaces to choose from — everything from canvas to pottery to rocks is an option. Discovering your style of painting is part of the fun, as is picking out color palettes and materials.
Painting is a top stress reducer. The repetitive motion of making a stroke with a paintbrush calms the mind and improves focus. According to doctors, repetitive movements help release serotonin, thereby boosting mood and reducing depression symptoms. Painting, and crafting in general, is also a great way to practice mindfulness, which has a whole wealth of benefits on its own, including pain relief and improvement in memory.
Collecting and arranging photographs, memorabilia, quotes, and snippets of art is an enjoyable way to spark memory sensors and create nostalgia. The creative act of scrapbooking helps decrease anxiety and improves self-esteem, all while producing a book filled with creative expression. Since scrapbooking is often so personal, it is also a way to help seniors maintain a sense of identity and independence. Research has found that people with higher levels of self-esteem are better equipped to handle stressful situations, which in turn creates a stronger immune system, protects against heart disease, and aids in healing.
Scrapbooking is an activity that can be enjoyed alone or with others. The social component of scrapbooking provides even more benefits, allowing for opportunities of teamwork and improved communication skills. There are many how-tos for scrapbooking available online, but the process is easy. Simply choose a book with sturdy pages and paste photos, images, cutouts, etc. into the book in a way that mirrors what you want to express. You can choose a theme for each book, or even make a book dedicated to a specific person as a gift. There are no hard and fast rules — you can create whatever is most unique to you!
This activity that was once mostly for children has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Coloring has been recognized as one of the most useful activities for practicing mindfulness. Since there is limited skill level required, coloring is an activity that can be done by almost anyone. Even seniors who no longer have the motor skills to hold a pencil can dictate how they want a picture colored and in this way can create a picture with someone. Choosing pictures and coloring books is also part of the creative process and a fun activity in itself.
The repetition, pattern, and detail involved in coloring prompt positive neurological responses, which lower stress and anxiety levels. These benefits can also lower the blood pressure levels and heart rates of some participants. Studies show that mandala-style designs are the most effective at producing a state of mindfulness and achieving the health benefits of coloring. Since coloring materials have long been designed for children, numerous non-toxic options are available, making coloring a suitable activities for seniors who have conditions such as pica or dementia.
Health Benefits of Crafts for Seniors
The health benefits of crafting are so powerful that studies even show that seniors involved in crafting activities — especially knitting — are less likely to develop dementia. Psychologists, doctors, and neuroscientists are all on board with using crafting as a therapeutic activity. Keep in mind that the health benefits of crafting are suited to complement regular therapy and prescribed treatments, not replace them.
One of the benefits of home care services is facilitating crafting activities. Home caregivers can pick up supplies, provide instructions, and make crafts together with the seniors in their care. If you are looking for home care services for yourself or a loved one, please reach out to Alegre Home Care at one of our Northern California locations and we’re happy to answer any questions.