It’s never too late to learn something new … and crochet or knitting may just be the thing to learn! Knitting and crochet can help improve seniors’ emotional well-being, improve cognitive and physical abilities, and enhance quality of life. In this post we will explore some of these knit and crochet benefits and tips for seniors to encourage success.
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Hobbies and crafts like knitting and crochet have been shown to help improve some of the common issues that seniors face, including chronic pain, depression, isolation, and cognitive and physical impairment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition and as a result may also suffer from depression. In Kathryn Vercillo’s book, Crochet Saved My Life, she explores how crochet and knitting have helped people with depression and chronic pain, both of which are risks for older adults (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).
In the study “Successful Aging And Creativity In Later Life” published in the Journal of Aging Studies, researchers studied a group of seniors ages 60 to 93 to explore creativity and it’s relationship to successful aging. They found that creative activity contributed to the six features they identified for successful aging: a sense of purpose, interactions with others, personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, health (Fisher & Specht, 1999). Knitting and crochet offer benefits to each of these key features.
Knit and Crochet Benefits and Tips for Seniors
Increased Emotional Well-Being
- stress relief
- improve self esteem
- sense of accomplishment and personal growth
- renew passion
- sense of purpose
The rhythmic and repetitive movements are among the meditative and stress relieving qualities of knit and crochet and have been shown to calm and focus the mind while easing anxiety (Crochet Saved My Life, 2012). Other benefits include improved self esteem from the accomplishment of learning a new skill and completing a project. Crochet and knitting can also be a wonderful form of self-expression for older adults who may find a renewed passion and sense of freedom in choosing a project and colors.
In addition, crochet and knitting groups can increase seniors’ overall well-being by providing a social outlet that can combat feelings of isolation and sadness by fostering a sense of community, an opportunity for growing friendships, and building a support network. This socialization is especially helpful for those those living alone or without family nearby. You can find crochet and knitting groups by asking around at your local yarn shop, library, place of worship, or senior center.
Many of these places also offer charity knit and crochet groups that work to make items such as hats or blankets for hospitals or other organizations that provide the handmade items to those in need. Creating items for causes such as this have the added benefit of giving seniors a sense of purpose and to feel like they are making a difference.
Improved Cognitive and Physical Abilities
- improve cognitive ability and memory
- increase dexterity and fine motor skills
- decrease focus on pain
- improve health
Crochet and knitting can improve cognitive ability and memory by challenging the brain and giving it something to focus on. Focusing on a project can also detract the mind from focusing on chronic pain. Eugene Schwartz writes the following in his article Knitting and Intellectual Development …
“Recent neurological research tends to confirm that mobility and dexterity in the fine motor muscles, especially in the hand, may stimulate cellular development in the brain, and so strengthen the physical instrument of thinking.” Craft Yarn Council
In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, authors Geda et al. found that seniors who engaged in crafts like knitting and crocheting had a diminished chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss. Aspects of these crafts such as learning new stitches, following a pattern, and counting stitches can help keep the mind active and engaged, and improve problem solving abilities and concentration.
In addition to the cognitive advantages of knit and crochet, there are also physical advantages. The actual movements involved to knit and crochet can help improve dexterity and fine motor skills. By coordinating the small muscles in the movements of the hands and fingers with the eyes, seniors improve hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Studies show that keeping the brain (and body) active and stimulated may actually slow down the aging of your brain and reduce your risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (National Institute on Aging, 2002).
Knit and Crochet Tips For Success
Given the specific needs of many seniors, there are some steps you can take to help encourage success (affiliate links to related products also included) …
- Keep projects on the small side
- Use simple and repetive stitch patterns
- Work in a well lit area, a flexible arm desk lamp can help direct light where needed
- Reproduce patterns at over 100% to help with eye strain and vision or use a magnifying stand or around-the-neck magnifier
- Use larger crochet hooks or knitting needles and chunky yarn in contrasting colors
In addition to these tips, in my post, 5 Knit and Crochet Health Concerns and What You Can Do, I outlined some tips for reducing discomfort such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Neck Pain, Back Pain, and Eye Strain.