When thinking about crafts for older adults, two of the most important factors to consider are the crafters’ eyesight and dexterity. With age often comes vision problems, from simple nearsightedness and farsightedness to more serious conditions such as macular degeneration. Arthritis
also is common, making working with very small or fine objects difficult and frustrating. In addition, although most elderly people are as bright and alert mentally as they were at a younger age, Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia will affect a person’s judgement and actions, and safety should be a prime consideration when choosing crafts for people having such conditions. The use of sharp and small objects should be avoided or monitored very closely. Because everyone – young and old – has individual abilities, the following ideas cover a wide range of difficulty.
Embroidery and cross-stitch are beautiful crafts that many older women learned as young girls. For people having good eyesight, these hobbies will likely bring back many fond memories. The repetitious action of stitching also is very calming. Stamped cross-stitch and stamped embroidery are easier than counted cross-stitch, which is worked by following a chart and sewing designs onto blank aida cloth, a loosely woven fabric. Craft stores sell articles such as pillowcases, cotton dishcloths or dresser scarves stamped with an ink design onto which the crafter sews. Iron-on transfers also are available, which can be transferred onto other items. The fabric is held taut in a hoop, and the design is sewn using strands of embroidery floss. For people who have a difficult time threading or gripping a fine needle, crewel embroidery is another option. This is worked with yarn rather than embroidery floss, and a thicker needle with a larger eye is used.
Another type of needlework that involves sewing with yarn is plastic canvas. This inexpensive craft project consists of sewing designs onto pieces of somewhat rigid plastic full of square holes. The pieces of plastic canvas are cut into various sizes and covered by using a large, blunt needle to thread worsted weight yarn through the squares. Often the pieces are assembled to create a dimensional object. One of the most popular and easiest items is a tissue cover box.
Crochet is a vintage craft that has soared in popularity in recent years. Once a person learns one or two basic stitches, numerous simple projects can be made. Crochet is done most often using various weights of yarn or cotton thread. Regular worsted weight yarn is the easiest to work with. Cotton thread, which is used to make objects such as doilies, is somewhat difficult to work with as it requires good eyesight and the ability to hold a thin hook. Manufacturers also have recently come out with a host of textured yarn. This creates beautiful objects, but it also can be difficult to work with because the texture can make it hard to discern stitches. Crochet hooks for yarn are sized by letter, with the most common sizes being about D through K. There are other sizes, and some projects even call for using a very large Q hook and several strands of yarn. Although this technique creates projects quickly, the large Q hooks are a bit awkward. Good hook sizes for beginning crafters or the elderly are sizes H or I.
Making a latch hook rug or wall hanging is a time-consuming but simple project. Using a latch-hook tool, short pieces of yarn are pulled though a stiff woven material with a grid-like pattern. When made using a kit, the yarn is precut and bundled by color, and the backing is stamped with the color yarn to be inserted. There are no difficult or confusing charts to follow. Think of latch hook as paint-by-number with yarn.
Take one stroll down the rubber-stamp aisle at a craft store and you will likely find hundreds of stamps in every conceivable design. One simple rubber-stamping idea is to make note cards. Use plain precut note cards or cut card-stock-weight paper to the desired size. Although straight cuts are nice, craft stores sell inexpensive scissors that make decorative edges. This finish really “fancies-up” the cards. Decorate the front of the card as desired, using any of the numerous colors of inked stamp pads that are available.
A very easy project that nearly anyone can do is making a collage. Young children often make collages using pictures that they have cut from magazines. Use this idea but refine and personalize it by making a collage using favorite snapshots. Go through a photo album and collect pictures with a particular theme. This could include photos of grandchildren or other family members, a favorite vacation or a special event such as a wedding. Make color copies of snapshots, then cut and paste the copies in a haphazard fashion onto cardboard or other stiff paper. Frame if desired.
If you think of beads as simple round balls, you might be shocked to discover the huge variety of beads on the market today. Browse through the selection and pick out beads of assorted shapes, colors and textures to create beautiful necklaces or bracelets. Thread large beads through cord and simply tie to make a necklace that slips over the head, or thread smaller beads onto elastic thread to make a bracelet that slips onto the wrist. When completed, neither piece of jewelry requires the wearer to open or close fussy clasps.