Crafting With the Elderly

I have been working with the elderly for about 25 years and there was very little information or help when I started.  It is quite difficult to find ideas and tips, this page is dedicated to doing just that.  I am happy to offer advice and ideas.  When working with any age group you will find differing levels of ability.  Working with people in residential homes brings additional problems:- strokes, arthritis, poor eyesight, levels of dementia can all add seemingly insurmountable difficulties.  Also people who have never had an interest in craft of any kind, may be very unwilling to "go back to school"

Quite often people have sat in their own homes for several years and done less and less as the years have passed. People can be encouraged and cajoled to join in but should never be made to, or be made to feel they are stupid or "naughty" for not doing so.  Sometimes I get people to come and watch or just to come and join in the conversation.  A form of therapy in itself.  

With the changes in when people go into residential homes I find I have very few able people in the total sense.  This will differ from home to home, but often people cannot manage any type of sewing, find colouring in or free hand drawing difficult and have only one good hand to use.  So if you have any grand ideas of what sort of crafts you would like them to do, think again.  Simplicity is the key.  Generally I am not in favour of someone doing the craft for them, although there are times when the therapy is more to do with the one to one contact and conversation than the craft itself.

So what sort of crafts can you do?  Obviously the more able the person the wider the choice, someone of 90 can sew beautifully, when someone of 70 may not be able to at all.  One person may make a complete mess of a craft by themselves but with a little assistance make a good job.  Most people can manage sticking (glue stick) or printing (rubber or foam stamps).  The craft above was inspired by aboriginal art, it was Australia Day.  The flowers and bird were stamped on a whole sheet and cut out afterwards.  They used bingo pens for the stamping and a leaf stamp.  I wish I could give credit for the original drawings but I was not very good in the beginning of keeping note where I got drawings from.  I did "google" but couldn't find the bird again.  

Fabric pens have also been used to "stamp" dots onto white satin bought coat hangers or homemade cotton ones.  Also to edge silk hankies or cotton ones.  Just using 2 or 3 colours it can look quite pretty.

These are pictures from less able crafter's.  The image can be cut out afterwards and matted onto a fresh piece of card.   Some are more aware than others that they "have messed it up" A little work on your part will improve matters no end!  Try to work with small groups especially if they all need help or you will go dizzy trying to go round and round!

Colouring in - as many of us know - is quite therapeutic and is a very valid craft.  The Internet is chock a block with colouring pages to print out.  Remember simplicity is the key not childishness.  I prefer to use drawings that are not silly but simple.  How simple depends on abilities.  

Chalks, felt tips, pencil type or wax crayons can all be used.  A word of warning if the paper is too thin, over use of felt tips causes holes!   It is a good idea to put the paper on a clipboard for stability. 

You can also make crafts from drawings.  The heart picture would make a good craft for Valentine's Day.  The heart could be one or two layers.  Each flower and leaf a separate layer.  Printed onto coloured paper ie green for leaves, maybe yellow or pale blue the flowers etc.  The basket of pansies also would be suitable as a craft.

Decorating bags is a favourite craft.  They are fairly easy to make. Normally I make rectangular shapes but, this time I tried a different shape.  I always make them with 2 layers of fabric so the bag is reverseable.  That way if they are unhappy with their work they can turn the bag inside out!  The small stamps work best.
 Paper piecing is a great way to create a picture.  As you can see how ever carefully you have planned your design, the results can turn out quite differently with each individual.  The important thing to remember, of course, is just because they haven't stuck to your idea doesn't make them "wrong".
Draw a simple branch,  leaves can be added with a felt pen.  I used 2 types of flower stickers, the domed acrylic ones were easy to pick up for those with poor dexterity.  The other type were more fiddly to deal with, however, I peeled off all the surrounding sheet leaving just the stickers, which made it easier.


  1. Thanks a lot! This is really helpful :)

  2. I am happy to be of help. Please feel free to ask questions.

  3. Very helpful as I have just started this type of work with the elderly without much training. Hope you ad

  4. Laurelle if I can be of any further help, please let me know