What are the benefits of sewing for seniors?

Sewing is the craft of fastening or attaching objects using stitches made with a sewing needle and thread. Sewing is one of the oldest of the textile arts, arising in the Paleolithic era.

Sewing can be done by machine or by hand and can have both functional and decorative purposes.

For sewing, there are many different ways of pulling together a creative or practical sewn masterpiece. The skills you need range from the simple act of threading a needle to more involved techniques relating to dressmaking and tailor-made haute couture.

There’s science behind the relief you find once you start sewing, and you’ve been reaping the benefits and probably didn’t even know it. Sewing is a creative outlet, but it’s more than that. It’s fun and has some health benefits, too.


chatelaine of tuigje, in the olden days, women used to wear it to have their sewing kit ready to hand. This silver chatelaine is partly covered with stingray leather

Sewing has an ancient history estimated to begin during the Paleolithic Era. Sewing was used to stitch together animal hides for clothing and for shelter. The Inuit, for example, used sinew from caribou for thread and needles made of bone; the indigenous peoples of the American Plains and Canadian Prairies used sophisticated sewing methods to assemble tipi shelters.

Sewing was combined with the weaving of plant leaves in Africa to create baskets, such as those made by Zulu weavers, who used thin strips of palm leaf as “thread” to stitch wider strips of palm leaf that had been woven into a coil. The weaving of cloth from natural fibers originated in the Middle East around 4000 BC, and perhaps earlier during the Neolithic Age, and the sewing of cloth accompanied this development.

During the Middle Ages, Europeans who could afford it employed seamstresses and tailors. The vital importance of sewing was indicated by the honorific position of “Lord Sewer” at many European coronations from the Middle Ages. An example was Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex who was appointed Lord Sewer at the coronation of Henry VIII of England in 1509.

Sewing for the most part was a woman’s occupation, and most sewing before the 19th century was practical. Clothing was an expensive investment for most people, and women had an important role in extending the longevity of items of clothing. Sewing was used for mending. Clothing that was faded would be turned inside-out so that it could continue to be worn, and sometimes had to be taken apart and reassembled to suit this purpose.

Once clothing became worn or torn, it would be taken apart and the reusable cloth sewn together into new items of clothing, made into quilts, or otherwise put to practical use. The many steps involved in making clothing from scratch (weaving, pattern making, cutting, alterations, and so forth) meant that women often bartered their expertise in a particular skill with one another.

Decorative needlework such as embroidery was a valued skill, and young women with the time and means would practice to build their skill in this area. From the Middle Ages to the 17th century, sewing tools such as needles, pins and pincushions were included in the trousseaus of many European brides.

Sewing birds or sewing clamps were used as a third hand and were popular gifts for seamstresses in the 19th century.

Here are some of the general health benefits brought by sewing:

a woman using a sewing machine

  • Sewing requires concentration and hand-eye coordination, which helps with cognitive development and the development of motor skills.
  • Sewing encourages creative thinking and enhances knowledge, which can help with problem-solving in other areas of your life.
  • Upcycling clothing is good for the environment (and your wallet).
  • Sewing increases nimbleness in the fingers and softens the joints in the fingers over time.
  • Sewing is relaxing and can lead to a more steady heart rate, lower blood pressure, and less perspiration over time.
  • The calming effects of sewing can reduce stress if your mind is focused on it.
  • Sewing keeps the mind healthy and active so that your mind can stay sharper for longer. The creative thinking required during sewing encourages the growth of new brain cells.
  • Sewing encourages self-discipline, accomplishments, and instills pride, which boosts mental health.
  • Sewing is a single focus task, which reduces the likelihood of negative thoughts and can help fight anxiety.
  • The sewing community is an easy way to make friends and seek advice from people that enjoy the same hobby as you, which can also fight depression.
  • Sewing creations with meaning can create sensory triggers for those who suffer from dementia.
  • Sewing increases dopamine, which can make us feel happy or interested in something.
  • Sewing helps people get into a groove. This leads to increased speed and productivity levels.
  • Sewing requires a lot of patience and attention to detail, so you’re bound to see improvements in both.
  • Using social media to share your creations provides great exposure while helping to build pride in your creations.

What are the benefits of sewing for seniors?

a senior sewing using a sewing machine

Seniors often struggle with depression and anxiety, and boredom is a big culprit in this. They can feel lonely and isolated as they age, and boredom just compounds this problem.

To keep seniors with limited mobility busy, try introducing them to a new hobby. From crocheting, knitting, and baking to playing the piano and container gardening, and learning a new language, there is a lot they can do to use their time productively.

One of which is sewing, through the use of a sewing machine or hand, seniors can help keep their motor skills in check through eye-hand coordination improvement or maintenance. Seniors are less likely to suffer coordination and balance related falls if they engage in some type of physical activity, regardless of that activity.

Here are the benefits of sewing for seniors:

Self Esteem

When a work is completed, you take pride in it. As each project ends, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Self-esteem is improved through sewing. When you’ve sewn something and give it as a gift or show it off to others, you get to enjoy their positive reactions.

Socialization can even be increased through participation in sewing circles. Some people who sew even display their projects at community festivals, local art shows, and more. Don’t know how to sew? If not, attend a class. That’s another opportunity for socialization.

Stress Relief

When you’re concentrating on the sewing machine and the repetitive motions required, you’re living in the moment. You’re more likely to forget about everything else. You may find yourself feeling calmer because it also helps control your breathing. Whereas alcohol and smoking are turned to by some individuals for stress relief, sewing is a far healthier alternative.

Keep Motor Skills Sharp

Through the use of a sewing machine, retirement age adults can help keep their motor skills in check through eye-hand coordination improvement or maintenance. Older adults are less likely to suffer coordination and balance related falls if they engage in some type of physical activity, regardless of that activity. Sewing can also help prevent muscle loss and joint stiffness. What’s more, it can help with healing functions and boost immunity.

Encourage Creativity and Brain Stimulation

Intense coordination is required when stitching fabric by hand or using a sewing machine. This is particularly the case if, for the first time ever, someone is learning how to sew. Creativity is also promoted because sewing requires the following:

Carefully considering the shape, size, and final result

  • Stitch type determination
  • Fabric choice
  • Picking the next project

To reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other related diseases, these activities help keep aging brains healthy and active.


some paraphernalia for sewing

Sewing was one of the first skills Homo Sapiens learnt. Archaeologists believe that people used to sew together fur, hide, skin and bark for clothing as far back as 25,000 years ago. 

Early needles were not made of metal. Sewing needles found at a lot of ancient archaeologist sites were made of bone and ivory. Metal needles came into existence much later in human history.

4000 kinds of sewing machines.

By the 20th century more than 4000 different types of sewing machines had been invented. Most of these slowly got lost in time as they were riddled with many problems. Only the machines that made sewing simple, fun and easy survived.