Arts, Crafts in Middle Age May Protect Your Brain

Patient Expert

I have a number of friends around my age who like to be crafty. For instance, one friend knits, draws, cooks through experimentation (in other words, without recipes), makes jewelry and weaves. Another friend who is an art teacher uses her spare time to knit, photograph and experiment with different crafts. I also have done some creative projects (sewing, needlepoint, needlework and mosaic tile creations) during my younger years. I plan to get back to them now that I finished graduate school and my caregiving chores have eased.

So why am I sharing this on a menopause blog? One reason is that I am finding that many of my female friends who are at this stage of life are starting to have more free time open up (especially those who have kids that are starting to leave the nest). Therefore, you're starting to look for new ways to use your time. The second reason is that taking up some form of art or craft in middle age may protect your memory from dementia.

Arts, Crafts and Dementia

Research out of the Mayo Clinic found that people who participate in these types of activities and who socialize in middle age may actually delay the development of thinking and memory issues that often turn into dementia when they reach old age.

The study involved 256 participants who were, on average, 87 years of age. All of the participants were free of dementia when the study started. The researchers asked participants about their involvement in:

  • Arts, such as painting, drawing, sculpting
  • Crafts, such as woodworking, pottery, ceramics, quilting, quilling and sewing
  • Socializing, such as book clubs, Bible study and travel groups
  • Computer activities, such as using the Internet, computer games and online purchases

The researchers assessed the participants over a period of time. They found that almost half of the participants (121 people) developed mild cognitive impairment within four years of the start of the study. However, the participants who engaged in artistic activities starting in middle age were 73 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who didn't do these activities. Participants who did crafts starting in middle age were 45 percent less likely to develop this impairment while those who socialized in middle and old age were 55 percent less likely to develop cognitive decline. Finally, using a computer in later life was found to be associated with a 53-percent reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment.

So what's stopping you? If you need further incentive, here's a TEDTalk by Young-ha Kim on kickstarting your creativity (although be forewarned, you need to read subtitles):

The lesson is that if you enjoyed a specific craft when you were younger, start it up again. And if you don't have a favorite, know the time is right to take a class - or even better, join a knitting or quilting group. Here's to creating lovely (and long) memories

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Primary Source for This Sharepost:

American Academy of Neurology. (2015). Can arts, crafts and computer use preserve your memory? EurekAlert!