Depending on where you live, this summer could be looking a lot different than you might have anticipated. For many, travel plans and other summer activities have been put on hold. However, this could be a great opportunity to try things you’ve never done before. While many people might not identify as being creative or artistic, there are arts and crafts options for everyone. Not only is crafting a great way to have fun and socialize with others, it also offers a myriad of health benefits. In fact, some experts believe that crafting and other leisure activities can actually reduce the chances of developing a cognitive impairment by up to 50%. In addition, researchers suggest that crafting-related activities can have a positive effect on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Creative activities, such as arts and crafts, can help boost mental health by stimulating different parts of the brain, depending on the activity. Trying new activities as an older adult can also provide a sense of accomplishment and improve self-esteem. Crafting covers a wide range of activities from knitting and sewing to painting and coloring. No matter the activity, crafting can provide numerous health benefits:
Untreated isolation and loneliness can cause serious health problems in older adults, such as increased cognitive decline and depression. However, arts and crafts activities provide an opportunity to socialize with others, especially if you join a crafting group or club that meets consistently. Socialization, along with exercising your own creativity, can help enhance quality of life.
Acts as a Form of Therapy
As we age, communicating our thoughts and feelings can become difficult, especially if diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Finding new ways of communication becomes increasingly important with age. Participating in arts and crafts is a wonderful way to practice self-expression when traditional communication becomes more difficult.
Increases Physical Health
Many older adults experience a decline in their fine motor skills as they age. We use our fine motor skills each day when we feed ourselves, use our phones, button our shirts or put the key in the door. These activities can become more difficult for a number of reasons. However, the more we practice these skills, the better they become. Arts and crafts activities, such as sewing and knitting, help refine our fine motor skills.
Protects Against Aging
Crafting has the ability to involve many different areas of the brain, which ultimately strengthens memory, processing and problem-solving abilities. The more we provide a stimulating environment for our brains, the more their ability to become flexible and adaptable increases.
Acts as an Anti-Depressant
When we do something pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine which acts as a natural anti-depressant. Whether we’re creating something from nothing, or learning how to work with our hands, dopamine is released and helps to protect us from feelings of depression.
Arts and crafts can be beneficial for all who participate, but it can be especially therapeutic for those with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Keeping the brain stimulated and actively engaging the mind can help slow cognitive decline and increase the overall wellbeing of these individuals. While most arts and crafts activities can be adapted to be appropriate at any ability level, there are some tips you might consider when crafting with those diagnosed with memory disease.
• While stimulating the brain is good, over-stimulation can cause confusion and anxiety. When leading a crafting activity, keep instructions simple, and avoid crafts with many different steps.
• The objective of an arts and crafts activity is to promote enjoyment. When we take the pressure off of achievement and instead focus on building upon the strengths and abilities we already have, the activity will be much more beneficial to a person’s overall wellbeing.
• If you’re working one-on-one, you might consider tapping into your loved one’s favorite pastimes or incorporate their favorite music into the activity.
• Lastly, keep safety in mind. If you are working with materials that are potentially harmful, keep them out of reach until it’s time to use them. If possible, each participant should be assigned a helper to assist in projects that require more skills.
Choosing a crafting activity can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. These activities are great for beginners and can be adapted to fit any skill or ability level.
Knitting and Crocheting
Both of these activities help improve mood and contribute to overall wellbeing, especially when done in a social setting. In addition, there are many clubs and groups designed just for beginners. If you’re interested in finding an activity to do alone in your spare time, you might consider purchasing beginner level kits that come with guides and instructions. You can find them on Amazon.
Coloring and Painting
Anyone can color! Coloring is a great form of self-expression and is a perfect crafting activity for beginners. Adult coloring books are available in many different styles and provide a gentle guide for those who are new to coloring or don’t know where to begin. If you prefer to craft with paint, there are still many different options. You might consider beginning with a guided painting picture, or unleash your creativity by painting on rocks for your garden or as a gift for a loved one.
This activity allows you to take a normal household item, like shoe-box or food container, and turn it into a work of art. You can use whatever you have at home, such as wrapping paper, scraps of fabric or other items to make it unique and playful. By using your hands to cut and place small items, you can actually improve your fine motor skills.
While all of these activities can be adapted when necessary, here are a few activities that are especially beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:
• Collages- This is a great way to help evoke memories while inspiring creativity. You might consider using newspaper clippings, or photographs from major life events to decorate your space.
• Greeting Cards- This activity can be adapted to fit any skill level and can allow your loved one to feel connected to friends and family. Start with pre-cut shapes, photographs or glitter markers to make the cards special and unique.
• Clay Modeling- This is a great way to use fine motor skills while also using your creative side. You can model the clay into certain shapes and dry them to make artistic embellishments to give as gifts to friends and family.
Our residents have been releasing their creative sides in many different ways at our Maplewood Senior Living communities. From rock painting to t-shirt making and quilting, our residents have found many ways to unleash their inner artist. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.
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