By Lauren Makahian Contributing writer. Originally published in Santa Ynez Valley News on 3/25/2021

 

These days, almost everyone does the “social” thing. Instagram this. Twitter that. Facebook the other thing. Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Skype, Whatsapp, YouTube, Tumblr, TikTok, WeChat and whatever new social platform Google is offering … the list is dizzying and growing.

I just read an article on the 65+ Social Networking Sites You Need to Know About in 2021. Sixty-five!

We love to share, everything from our families to our food to our politics, news and beyond. As do our friends. It’s a lot on a good day. Some days, it’s just plain too much.

Those of us over the age of 50 might remember life before the rise of modern social media. We, or our loved ones, used to engage in the pursuit of hobbies, from knitting to collecting and more. A hobby, across many definitions, can be thought of as an activity of interest to the hobbyist that is done entirely for itself. It is a third state of being between work time (productivity) and relaxation time (leisure).

A hobby is a constructive activity, similar to work, but for which we are essentially our own boss and have complete freedom of self-expression and creativity. We get to call the shots; we choose what we want to do and how we want to do it.

Hobbies are incredibly useful because they offer a sense of purpose, an avenue for creative productivity beyond work but not quite pure relaxation. Worktime is spent doing, well, work, and leisure time is often filled with television or other passive activities.

Most of those suffering with dementia don’t work for a living. At least they shouldn’t. Research has also shown that engaging in activities, not watching television all day, helps to stimulate the mind. This, in turn, helps lessen some of the symptoms of dementia by developing new neural pathways. Engaging in activities is also known to lessen other symptoms, notably depression. Hobbies, something for anyone to look forward to, can provide an ideal and engaging activity for those with dementia.

While hobbies are often thought of as self-chosen, this need not be the case. You can basically prescribe a hobby for your loved one with dementia. If you run into resistance, learn the new hobby for yourself and work to bring the person with dementia along for the journey. “I’m working to learn a new hobby. Want to join me? It’s actually fun!”

One form of resistance I hear is that hobbies are expensive, or that, “I don’t have time!” Hey, not all hobbies are expensive, and not all hobbies take a lot of time. Consider drawing, singing or learning music appreciation (name that tune). Especially for those with dementia, the hobby also need not be particularly polished.

Collecting, for example, need not be focused on what we consider “collector’s items” that might be expensive. One of my clients collects canceled stamps on envelopes, for example, happily sharing the latest find or the collection itself. Scrapbooking need not be using new cutouts and photos affixed to acid-free paperbound books. Consider cutting items out of magazines and using glue or paste to affix them to construction paper. The list is endless.

This may seem like just a series of activities. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that since those activities can be engaging and stimulating, achieving important objectives for those with dementia. But the real benefit of hobbies is that they can be engaged with daily, bringing new ideas and discoveries each day. Better yet, hobbies can remove the stigma of continually finding something new to do with your loved one.

As you work through the many dimensions of dementia, helping your loved one learn a new hobby can be one of the most rewarding and freeing things you can do. You might even develop a new kind of relationship with your loved one and have fun in the process.

 

Lauren Mahakian is a certified care manager. Check out her free podcast, Unlocking the Doors of Dementia™ with Lauren and Free Support Groups on Zoom.

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