Almost half of seniors over age 65 have been diagnosed with arthritis. Creative seniors might be afraid arthritis will keep them from their favorite activities, as writing, crafting, playing instruments and many other creative hobbies do involve using your hands.
But this condition doesn’t have to keep seniors from doing what they love. Here are some tips and tricks to help seniors with arthritis continue to work on creative projects.
Holding small, thin tool handles may be more difficult with arthritis because you have to close your grip tighter. Buying tools with larger handles could make it easier to work for longer. For example, large, flat paint brushes such as those you use for house painting might be more comfortable to hold than small round brushes.
Writing with a pen and typing both use repeated minor motor functions, which could set off arthritis pain or lead to overuse injuries. If writing is one of your hobbies, this can be a pretty big issue. Fortunately, modern technology can help keep you keep doing what you love.
Speech-to-text tools record what you say and translate the words into a text document. That way, you can write as much as you want without using your hands at all. If you have a newer computer, smartphone or tablet, it likely has these tools built-in. You can also buy software for this purpose such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in creative projects and want to work for hours. And while you may feel like you can push through the pain, that can make things worse or create an overuse injury.
To prevent strain but still feel productive, try taking small breaks frequently. If you feel pain beyond normal discomfort, stop altogether and come back when your hands have had time to rest. If pain persists, see your doctor.
With any activity, stretching may help prevent injuries and ease potential pain. It’s no different when you’re working with your hands. Stretch before you work to warm up and again after to ease any tightness from working. Here are some hand stretches to try.
To do this stretch, start by making the hand sign Spock makes in Star Trek — splitting your fingers in the middle with the index and middle touching and the ring and pinky touching. Then, switch the finger position so your hand is making a “w.” Your middle and ring fingers should now be touching, and your index and pinky should be floating to the side. Now, just switch back and forth between those hand positions four to five times.
If you can’t fully make those hand positions, that’s ok. Just get as close as you can. Don’t try to force your fingers to touch.
It’s important not to neglect your wrists when you stretch. They can become fatigued easily just like your hands, which may contribute to arthritis pain. A simple way to stretch your wrists is to gently press the bottom of one palm into the top of the other. Push until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your wrist and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch which palm is on top to stretch your other wrist.
Massage isn’t usually considered a stretch, but it helps loosen up muscles and may help relieve some hand pain. There are methods for hand massage called reflexology. However, it may be easier to massage your hands by intuition. Just gently rub the parts of your hand that feel tense.
Seniors with arthritis may also benefit from having a professional massage therapist work on their hands. Try one of the reflexology spas in Kansas City.
Just like large physical movements, such as running or swinging a bat, minor motor skills like playing a guitar, typing or writing, have a proper form. Using good form may help keep you from getting fatigued or hurting your hands.
You probably learned the proper way to type and write in school, but it’s easy to fall out of practice and forget the correct way. Refreshing yourself on typing and handwriting skills may help you work on your writing project more comfortably.
For other creative hobbies, such as art, crafting and playing instruments, you may not know the best forms unless you’ve taken classes. You can usually find the correct ways to hold and use different art tools online — check out YouTube videos, for example. For playing instruments, it’s a good idea to meet with an instructor to learn good form. It’s easy for people of any age to injure themselves by playing instruments incorrectly, and seniors with arthritis may be more at risk.
Spoon theory is a popular planning concept for people living with a chronic condition such as arthritis. The idea is that you only have the ability to do a set number of things each day. Each activity counts as one “spoon”, and you start the day with a certain number of spoons. When you complete a task, you “spend” one of your spoons.
If you want to do more hobbies and crafts, you have to spend fewer spoons on other things. One way you might cut down on your spoon use is by joining The Gardens at Barry Road assisted living community. Our staff can assist with a variety of daily tasks to cut down how many spoons you spend and give you more freedom to create.