Why are hobbies so important?
People are often identified by their hobbies, for example as a 'footballer', an 'avid knitter' or 'crossword fanatic'. It's a fundamental part of their makeup and as human beings, we need to be active and engaged to live well.
Doing our favourite things has many benefits for our health and well-being and can help us to be more mentally alert. Hobbies involving other people have the additional benefit of keeping us socially engaged and connected with those around us, chatting, laughing and preventing loneliness.
There is plenty of evidence to support the idea that people can lose their skills through lack of practice. So people with dementia should be encouraged and supported to continue to enjoy their hobbies and pastimes.
Sometimes, simple changes will need to be made to enable the person to continue to succeed. The trick is finding something that is just right, not too hard that the person cannot do it and becomes frustrated or disillusioned, and not so easy the person feels undervalued.
For a keen knitter, her dementia might mean she can no longer follow her favourite complex knitting patterns. This doesn't mean she'll never knit again. Perhaps she could follow a simpler pattern or knit squares or scarves without a pattern. If this is a struggle, perhaps she would enjoy undoing knitting, winding wool or sorting through old patterns. In this way she can enjoy her hobby by using the strengths and abilities she's retained.
The footballer may like to join a veteran team or enjoy 'walking football', which is played at a slower pace but still has the camaraderie of team mates. Maybe he would enjoy cheering at a local game or prefer to watch the big game on the television. The crossword fanatic may choose a more simple challenge, or find that enlarging the puzzle on a photocopier can help if eyesight is an issue. By 'grading' activities people can continue to enjoy their favourite hobbies.
Sometimes people will stop doing their favourite hobbies because of perceived risks. For example, a person who has always enjoyed baking may be discouraged from doing so in case they hurt themselves on the hot oven. Positive risk taking acknowledges and minimises potential risks, without eliminating them all together. More information about positive risk taking can be found in 'Supporting people with dementia to get out in the community' section.
A case study about maintaining hobbies to help you improve your practice:
Find out more about the importance of hobbies for people living with dementia.
Playlist for Life – personal music for dementia (a website that lets you create playlists by decade, browse other people’s playlists and much more)
Improve your practice by accessing the latest research findings: