Sewing for seniors

A stitch in time saves nine, quite literally. Senior citizens who learn sewing not only find a new way of expressing their creativity but also keep physically and mentally agile

Imagine seeing your dad and father inlaw clearly busy and engaged in an activity that evokes loud exclamations and laughter too as they go about learning and creating projects on their easy-to-use sewing machines. Their excitement is palpable and they are obviously enjoying themselves.

It seems like an idyllic scene, doesn’t it? But like many new norms, we are optimistic that this too can soon become a norm rather than an exception. That is, once people realise the benefits of learning a hobby in their silver years that keeps them physically and mentally agile and is proven to ward off dementia and depression – the bane of senior years. With life expectancy going up substantially thanks to better nutrition and medical aid, India has an increasingly aging population and along with longer lives comes loneliness and depression leading to mental and physical downslide.

This is where sewing and sewing communities come in. It becomes like the community that makes them feel like they belong and share a sense of camaraderie with their mates who are in the same space. So how do we do this? How can people like you and me help build these communities across the country? In fact, now is the perfect time as seniors are feeling the added pressures of self-declared social isolation and they just don’t know what to do with their time.

First up is the unlearning that’s needed – yes, and this is for all of us. For we have all been conditioned to associate sewing as the domain of tailors, designers, and housewives. Honestly how you would react if your retired father or father in law said he wanted to learn sewing? You would probably give an unsure laugh and think it’s his latest passing fad, or maybe say, ‘what Pa?’ There would be very few among us who would encourage it instantly and wholeheartedly. It’s this last reaction that needs to be the popular reaction in order to add joy to a growing ageing population.

A whole new learning and perception around the craft of sewing needs to be built. Beliefs about how the learning the craft of sewing can be creative and fun and keep one healthy both mentally and physically.

If you are lucky, this happens naturally when seniors themselves want to experience something new and creative and are raring to go. Otherwise you may have a task at hand trying to convince the seniors to move out of their comfort zone. It may be a comfort zone they are not happy about and crib about but it’s familiar territory and they feel secure in that space, so it needs to be done gently but firmly and once it becomes part of their safe space, they will enjoy it thoroughly.

Yes, what is really important is appreciation of their efforts which encourages them to learn more and express their creativity further. Display what they make on family groups and in your homes, talk about it and make them feel special. This will really up the ante in their happiness quotient – and when they are happy their brains release endorphins that is really good for emotional health.

The motions of threading the needle, holding the cloth and teasing it forward in the direction needed and using the foot pedal to stitch keeps their motor functions agile. Finding new fun projects, experimenting with colour and stitches as well as the various features keep them mentally agile. All in all this is a win-win for everyone concerned – the younger generations don’t feel guilty about parents/inlaws being lonely and the senior generation becomes part of a community where they have fun and learn.

The other thing that you can do is create an online chat community for them and their buddies so they all feel welcome – this can be the platform where they exchange notes, pictures, and maybe every once in a while they can meet with the mandated restrictions to make an evening of it. Make something special, invite them all to bring in their latest DIYs and do a little show and tell to add another fun element to their class. If you have friends who are passionate about sewing, request them to come do a creative yet simple project which gives the seniors a sense of accomplishment. And trust me, this joy of creating will far outlast this pandemic and maybe even help build their immunity as the laugh and stay happy and upbeat.

Soon this joy will spread, these communities will grow, and the ageing population will find purpose and happiness. In many cases it will also lead to beautiful moments shared between grandparents and grandchildren when they create something fun together. So why wait? Let’s get started today and spread the cheer!

And if you are a senior citizen, or soon to be senior citizen with time on your hands, now is the time to get started to stay happy and busy!



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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