spinning a yarn

Dementia Dialogue // Knitting for Well-being

In going along to Knitting For Well-being with Dementia Dialogue I had no idea what to expect, especially as I've not picked up a pair of needles in decades.  The group was small and informal, the wools were plentiful, and rooting around for matching needles set the session off to a playful start. We were a mix of older and younger people, with many of the older peeps having knitted before, but fallen out of the habit. It was led by Angelica Welzel-Connolly, who wanted to teach a Dutch version of 'casting on'. The rest of us were digging into our familiar pattern, if you'll pardon the pun, of doing it as we always had.  

Knitting is being adopted for dementia clients, and found helpful in a range of ways, especially in terms of its social engagement. This is a two-hour class that Angelica teaches to sufferers of Dementia and I can well see how that would connect a person to past memories, as it quickly plugged each of us who'd knitted before into our early memories from when we first began knitting. The participants were encouraged to make one of two bag styles. There was a wee one, as I made (big enough to fit a book of stamps or a few coins), or something a little larger that would carry a purse/phone/keys and would require a reinforced woollen handle.

What I hadn't expected was the connection I made with fellow participant, Sandra, where we encouraged each other every step of the way.  As our knitting grew so did our friendship. We veered off-pattern in cavalier fashion, and wandered off-topic reflecting on how as kids we'd been able to have the sorts of outdoor adventures children are no longer able to. We chatted over childhood teachers, Sandra remembering Mrs Mackenzie who taught knitting by rote, using the repetitive phrase; up, round, down, and off, until they were immersed in its hypnotic mantra. My mum taught me to knit at Nelly's Knee; observing her actions sitting by her side, a copycat method that carries through to now, where my how-tos are found on YouTube. Sandra and I laughed hysterically at times as we bonded over the needles. 

I can see how a small group number would work well with Angelica's clients.  It made me think of the Lewy Body Dementia condition my mum had, where this activity's informality, chatter, the stirring of dim and distant memories (real or imagined) within an informal atmosphere such as this would have suited her timid shyness rather well. And her arthritic fingers would easily be accommodated with methods I've seen demonstrated by local knitting guru, Debra Nash, who teaches finger and arm knitting in Folkestone. A highly inclusive approach. All in all a relaxing, big fun session, where we were left to our own devices, and every required material was at our disposal.  Shortly afterwards Sandra and I made a short video sporting our results: https://twitter.com/TSOTFringe/status/868148450722033665 (JU)

- Jane Unsworth

Links Relevant to this Diagnosis:

Dementia Dialogue

Ask the MD - FAQ on Lewy Body Dementia

Tatty Bunting - Folkestone Knitting Group

Alzheimers Society - Improvement Through Knitting

Cast On Stitches