The US Census Bureau has found that Americans currently spend around five to six hours per day on leisure and sports activities, including hobbies such as crafting. It’s certainly time well spent, particularly for older adults. Learning and practicing a new craft as a senior brings many rewards; not only can the creative process boost mental health and self-esteem, it can also improve fine motor skills and provide an opportunity for socializing and making friends, which has been scientifically proven to benefit those with Alzheimer’s. So what are you waiting for? With a broad range of activities to choose from, there’s bound to be one to suit you or someone you are caring for.
Going with the flow
Psychologists have found that the aging brain is very similar in structure to that of a creative brain; with less self-consciousness and more openness to a breadth of ideas and possibilities. Even if you’ve never tried a crafting hobby before, you are likely to be able to take on board the principles and have fun trying a new activity. Better still, as the psychologist Csikszentmihalyi found, people concentrating on a creative activity enter a state of creative flow, in which they are fully immersed in the task at hand. This helps them to forget day to day concerns and gives them a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure on completion. For a senior who might be experiencing anxiety or depression, this escapism is a wonderful way to restore confidence and self-esteem.
A recent study of just under 2,000 people aged 45 and up demonstrated the correlation between advancing age and worsening fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are essential for all sorts of daily tasks such as buttoning shirts, taking coins out of a purse or using a key in a door; losing the ability to do these affects both independence and self-esteem. They’re also necessary for typing emails or text messages, without which a person can feel isolated. By taking up a crafting hobby such as sewing, knitting or woodwork, you can practice these skills daily, keeping those motor skills as polished as possible. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune either; stock up on the basic tools for your workstation at first, and then you can add to these essentials once you’ve seen how you enjoy it. Friends and family members may also appreciate a clear focus for future gifts!
A recent survey found that nearly 50% of respondents admitted to feeling lonely or isolated; Americans are facing a crisis of loneliness. Taking up a crafting hobby creates an immediate social circle, a reason to meet regularly, and something to talk about when you do. There is also a huge online community for those who like to share and admire work in that way. Scientists have also found that staying social is hugely beneficial to those with memory-impairing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which is why programs such as Nexus at Silverado create social clubs, often centered around creative activities.
Whether you see yourself as a creative person or not, taking up a craft-based hobby can be hugely valuable. Whether you enjoy it for the enjoyment and escapism it provides, appreciate the fine motor skills it improves, or cherish the friends you come to make through it, crafting can be crucial in older age. Choose one to try and enjoy the thrill of discovering a new skill.
By Jackie Edwards
Now working as a writer, Jackie started her career in finance and banking, but after becoming a mom refocused and decided to spend more time with her family. When she’s not writing, she volunteers for a number of local mental health charities and she looks after her parents who live close by. Her father is beginning with the early stages of Dementia and Jackie feels it important to research as much as possible into helping seniors live their final years in comfort.