Creativity is an essential part of human expression that helps us make sense of the world around us and communicate our thoughts and emotions with others. Creativity though crafting, has the ability to involve many different areas of the brain, which ultimately strengthens memory, processing, and problem-solving abilities. Stimulating environments and activities help our brains become more flexible and adaptable. This article will explore the physical, therapeutic, and social benefits of crafting for older adults.
What is crafting?
To craft means to make just about anything with your hands. Many popular crafts include soldering for jewelry, knitting, and crocheting. However, crafting does not necessarily require you to have any specialized skills or familiarity with power tools. Crafting is mainly about being creative and finding a medium that allows you to express yourself.
For people who do not have a lot of raw materials for crafting, there are “craft kits” you can find at most hobby stores that eliminate the work of sourcing various materials. These are great if you want to do a craft with someone, as you can both get the same kit and work together.
Crafting can also apply to cooking and baking. The best part of a cooking or baking-oriented craft is eating your creation, and even better if you can share tasting your results with a crafting buddy.
The benefits of crafting with a partner
Working on crafts is a great way to keep busy, but it’s also a great way to share time and conversation with a crafting partner. Working alongside someone not only helps the time go by, but the best part is sharing ideas, problem-solving, and general discussion.
In the 1920s, groups of women created craft circles where they made quilts together. Sometimes they would work on one big quilt or “family” heirloom quilt that would be passed down from generation to generation. They even established quilting social clubs where they would gather to work on their quilts in a big circle while they shared news and stories.
In this day and age, quilting circles aren’t commonplace. Still, with the popularity of hobby stores, the options of different types of crafts that people can do in their homes have grown by leaps and bounds.
What are some great crafts that are older adult friendly?
An older adult-friendly craft doesn’t require a lot of special equipment or tools to do the art. All you need is a vision of what you want to create, a workspace, some free time, and, to make it even more enjoyable, a crafting partner to share your time and achievements with.
Knitting or Crocheting: Learning or practicing a new skill, like knitting or crocheting, can be a fun and creative activity to do with someone. You can make blankets, scarves, hats, or other items while enjoying each other’s company.
Scrapbooking: Scrapbooking is a great way to preserve memories and create something beautiful simultaneously. You can work together to create a scrapbook of their favorite memories.
Painting or Drawing: Painting or drawing can be a therapeutic activity that can help you relax and express yourself creatively. A crafting partner can provide encouragement and support while helping you learn new techniques.
Collage Making: Collage making is a great activity that requires minimal supplies. You can gather pictures, old magazines, and other materials to create a unique and personalized collage.
Pottery or Ceramics: Creating pottery or ceramics can be rewarding and satisfying and is a great way to create beautiful pieces that can be displayed or given as gifts.
Jewelry Making: Jewelry making is a fun and creative activity that you can do with various materials, such as beads, wire, and string. You can create unique jewelry pieces to wear or give as gifts.
Quilting: Quilting is a time-honored tradition that can be an excellent way to bond and create something beautiful. You can choose a pattern, select fabrics, and work on the quilt together.
Embroidery: Embroidery is a relaxing and meditative activity that can help you focus and reduce stress. Companions can help you choose a pattern and provide support as needed.
Card Making: Making greeting cards can be a fun and creative activity that can also be useful for sending well wishes to friends and family. You can make cards for special occasions or fun.
Woodworking: Woodworking can be fun and challenging. You can work on projects like birdhouses or create more complex pieces like furniture.
When you work on a craft at home, the personal reward is creating something you’ve put your time and heart into. You may pass this on to a family member or friend or even place it on an online auction site to share your creation with the world while getting paid for your work.
Crafting also provides physical and mental benefits, helping you to enhance your daily quality of life. Studies have shown that crafting improves hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and cognitive function, including memory and focus. It also helps to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression by boosting dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.
Physical Benefits of Crafting
It also provides numerous physical benefits, especially for older adults. From improving agility to boosting the immune system, here are some of the main physical benefits of crafting:
- Stimulates the brain: Crafting keeps your brain active, reducing the risk of mild cognitive impairment and memory loss by up to 50%.
- Improves dexterity: Crafting can enhance fine motor skills and the small muscles in the wrists and hands needed for daily activities such as eating, writing, and dressing.
- Improves circulation: Crafting increases blood flow in the fingers, hands, wrists, and arms, which can help alleviate poor circulation.
- Lower blood pressure: Crafting can lower blood pressure by promoting relaxation and slowing breathing.
- Relieves pain: Crafting can take your mind off persistent pain and provide relief.
- Reduces stress: Crafting can help minimize stress, leading to memory loss, confusion, heart problems, and migraines.
- Strengths immune system: Crafting can boost the immune system by reducing stress.
- Helps with insomnia: Crafting activities, such as knitting, can help improve sleep by promoting relaxation before bed.
Therapeutic Benefits of Crafting
Crafting also offers a range of therapeutic benefits for older adults that can help promote emotional well-being and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. Some of the main therapeutic benefits of crafting are:
- Prevents depression: Crafting can help reduce the risk of depression by releasing dopamine, the body’s natural anti-depressant when you relax and focus on the project.
- Improves self-esteem: Completing a craft project can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of pride in one’s accomplishments, especially when others admire the result.
- Reduces boredom: Crafting is a healthy outlet to balance moods and reduce feelings of restlessness and boredom.
- Helps to process grief: During loss and sadness, crafting can provide comfort and distraction, allowing individuals to process grief.
- Builds bonds of friendship: Crafting can be fun and social, especially when working on a shared project with family or friends.
Finding a crafting partner
A crafting partner can be a family member, friend, or even an in-home Companion. A Companion’s primary role is to be a friend and partner that provides interaction and support. Craftwork is one of the best scenarios to have a crafting partner by your side because there’s so much interaction and communication in the building process.
When our Maxim at Home Companions checks in with their Advisors after a job, they often comment that some of the most rewarding time they have spent with clients was working on a project together. The client and Companion thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration, excellent communication, and problem-solving — most of all, the natural high from completing a project together.
Your collaboration with a crafting partner typically starts with the concept phase of figuring out what to create, driving to pick up the supplies, and then creating a work area in the home. You could be making a gift for a family member, a new bird feeder, or a fun centerpiece. Your only limit is your imagination.
Suppose you didn’t finish on the first day and booked a crafting Companion through Maxim at Home. In that case, you can always have the same Companion return whenever you’re ready to pick up where you left off. If the craft is a gift for a friend or family, they can even transport you to their house so you can give them the gift in person.
Practicing creativity is key to successful aging.
As you age, keeping yourself busy doesn’t produce miraculous well-being results. However, keeping yourself active through challenging and engaging activities that make you think, plan, and execute, can help you maintain a sharp mind. This type of growth is the difference between aging and successful aging.
Crafting, or “Art Therapy,” is an excellent path towards successful aging as it provides the opportunity to sharpen your mind, work and interact with a partner, and increase your social circle in a craft group. Working with a partner or a group towards a common goal of creating something is a great way to re-instill a sense of purpose, confidence, and overall personal growth.
How do you get started?
Regardless of your skill level, a craft is waiting for you to try. However, where do you get started with so many different types of crafts to choose from? Start with something that you love. You want to feel joy in making something, so make sure it’s close to your heart.
A great way to get started is to look at the list above and take some time to think about which one you feel you’ll have the most fun working on and why.
Once you pick a craft, the next phase is research. Crafting is a massive industry with hundreds of groups and websites focused on any skill, so start with an online search. Determine what you want to create and whether to buy supplies or a kit. If you’re not driving anymore, a Companion can take you where you need to go and help you get your supplies.
Then you’ll need a workspace, such as a garage, kitchen, coffee, or card table. Just throw down some old newspapers, arrange your supplies, and let your inner Picasso out.
Every day is a good day to craft
Whether knitting, painting, or scrapbooking, creating something is a journey everyone can enjoy. Crafting can help you discover new skills, learn new techniques, and create beautiful and meaningful projects that people can display in their homes or share with loved ones as an heirloom. Sharing the creative journey with a crafting Companion or group of friends is also a great way to expand your social circle. Crafting can also fit easily into your schedule because you can work at your own pace. So why not consider incorporating crafting into your daily routine?
A wise crafter once said, “The key to crafting is to start; inspiration will follow.”
The Maxim at Home team is here to help
Do you need help with a loved one? Then consider Maxim at Home’s homemaker and companionship services. Our team of friendly, compassionate Companions takes great pride in serving people in their own community who need light assistance with daily chores, some company and conversation, or convenient transportation for errands, appointments, or trips to the store.
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National Institute on Aging – Participating in the Arts Creates Paths to Healthy Aging
University of Arkansas – Crafting for Health
The Unexpected Benefits of Crafting
History of Quilting Circles
Art for Self Care and Mental Health