Engaging in hands-on creative activities can be mentally beneficial. In a Psychological Science study, seniors who learned digital photography and quilting showed improved memory function. The study examined the impact of continual learning of new and increasingly complex tasks over a prolonged period building on a distinction between productive engagement versus receptive engagement.
Productive engagement refers to activities that require active learning and sustained activation of working memory, long-term memory, and other executive processes. In the study, seniors learned to use a single-lens reflex camera and photo editing software or they learned to visualize and piece together abstract shapes to form complex integrated patterns for quilting. In addition, the quilters learned to operate software-driven sewing machines. Some seniors in the study learned both crafts.
In contrast, receptive engagement refers to activities that rely on passive observation, using your existing knowledge, and familiar activities like listening to classical music, various other forms of entertainment, word puzzles and short trips.
The study found that when compared with receptive engagement, productive engagement, such as learning digital photography and quilting, caused a significant increase in episodic memory. Episodic memory refers to remembering specific events and experiences such as meeting your spouse or your first kiss.
March is Craft Month. What better time to engage in creative activities that involve learning a new skill or revisiting skills you haven’t used recently? In addition to keeping your brain stimulated, productive engagement can improve motor skills, relieve stress and alleviate anxiety. Some activities can be adapted using special equipment for those with physical or vision challenges. You can craft for yourself, your family and friends or craft for a cause, making useful items for people in need.
Twin Lakes Community has a variety of ways to practice productive engagement. From building in the woodworking shop to creating masterpieces in the arts and craft studio, there are plenty of amenities enabling you to live life to the fullest. Learn about these opportunities and more through Twin Lakes Community. Schedule your visit to this active, growing, Continuing Care Retirement Community in the heart of North Carolina. Call 336-538-1572 to schedule your tour today.
 Park, Denise C et al. “The impact of sustained engagement on cognitive function in older adults: the Synapse Project.” Psychological science vol. 25,1 (2014): 103-12. doi:10.1177/0956797613499592 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4154531/