Why Stitching Circles Is Good for Seniors' Health

Crafting Focuses Concentration, Is a Health Booster and Stress Buster

stitching circle
A stitching circle provides great exercise and purpose for seniors. Getty Images

If the image of a senior citizen sitting, knitting and sharing with friends or enjoying some alone time in a quiet sunny spot screams “stereotype” and “outdated thinking”  you may need to think again. Crafting focuses concentration and is a health booster and stress buster, according to Robert Reiner, Ph.D., a New York University psychologist. In this article we look at stitching circles and how they provide good exercise and great purpose.

“The act of performing a craft is incompatible with worry, anger, obsession, and anxiety,” he said.

Activity directors may want to break out the knitting needles and pass out the yarn as a way to entice residents to learn a new skill or recapture the feeling of thread in their fingers that they remember from childhood.

Herbert Benson, M.D., of Harvard University, has reported that repetitive and rhythmic crafts such as knitting may even evoke what Benson calls the relaxation response. This is a feeling of bodily and mental calm that’s been scientifically proven to enhance health and reduce the risk of heart disease, anxiety, and depression. So basically activities for seniors contain hidden health benefits!

A survey by the Hobby Industry Association, sponsored by the Home Sewing Association and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 30 women (15 experienced sewers and 15 novice sewers) and measured their blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration rate, and skin temperature—all gauges of stress.

The results showed that sewing was the most relaxing activity of five studied: It produced drops in heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration. However, stress measures increased after the women performed the other tasks, especially after playing a card or video game.

A study published in the April 2013 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine found that mental and physical stimulation improves seniors' memory and thinking skill, regardless of how rigorous the activities.

Playing a Wii video game for example as well as crocheting require hand eye coordination which improve cognition, according to researchers at the University of Rochester in New York.  Residents playing Wii games need to be aware of what direction is the target moving and press buttons on the controller accordingly. As gaming environments are ever changing, players must adapt quickly and put their hand-eye coordination skills to the test.

Researcher Daphne Bavelier said seniors engaging in video games may improve cognitive skills. For example, video gamers may be better at detecting small elements in the real world such as when driving down the street they are more likely to pick out a child running after a ball than a non-video gamer.

Crocheting, knitting and sewing require hand and eye coordination, the ability to read and follow a pattern, the awareness of counting stitches to form a pattern and the completion of a job. In other words it is a perfect activity.

For free knitting patterns: http://www.free-knitpatterns.com/welcome.html?source=055FKP

For free crocheting patterns: http://www.freepatterns.com/welcome_specific.html?category=crochet&source=025FRP

Editor's Note - Gloria's programs in Science for Seniors provides a perfect way to engage residents intellectually and physically.

She is an award-winning activity professional who speaks nationally. You may want to check her out after reading this article.