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Do-it-yourself health

Creative arts are good for mind, body

Created date

February 26th, 2009
Crafts like quilting and scrapbooking, commonly considered mere hobbies, are now getting a second look. Recent research has shown they provide cognitive, physical, and emotional benefits for older adults. Delving into creative projects can increase the number of connections among brain cells, according to Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In his bookThe Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain(Perseus Books, 2005), Cohen points to a study of healthy adults age 65-plus who engaged in painting, writing, jewelry-making, or singing. Over two years, this group experienced better physical health, required fewer doctor visits, and used less medication than those who didn t participate in so-called artsy programs. According to Harvard s mind/body expert Herbert Benson, M.D., repetitive crafts like knitting and sewing have a calming effect on the body that can actually reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and other physical measures of stress. If that s true, there s a lot of de-stressing going on at Wind Crest, where knitters, artists, scrapbookers, quilters, and writers meet regularly. Chilling out Residents learn about the artsy groups from friends, on bulletin boards, and through announcements on the community s TV station. Sometimes, people happen upon them by chance. "One day, I stayed behind to catch my breath after an exercise class when the Woman s Club started filtering in. Before I knew it, I had joined," says Pat Crowley, who is now a member of the group that creates handmade items for children s charities. Some group members have artistic or philanthropic interests. Others, like Dotty Cecil, are drawn to spending quality time with others. "I didn t know many people when I moved here, and I wanted to expand my circle of friends. That, and my husband wanted me to get out of the house," she jokes. For the boys Crafting may be a tad more popular among the ladies, but clubs like the Windy Wooders woodshop crew and the Model Railroaders provide a setting for men to express their creativity. For Mar Pearson, a former manufacturing engineer, the woodshop is a natural fit. "I enjoy working with my hands, tearing things down and rebuilding them," he says. Beyond that, he adds, being part of the group provides an avenue for socializing. "Most of us hadn t met before, and we ve become pretty good friends." Calling all crafters As millions celebrate National Craft Month this March, there s never been a better time to try your hand at a new hobby. Several arts and crafts shows are scheduled throughout the Denver area in the coming months. For listings, log