Wednesday, 26 March 2014

#368: Knit Wits

For three years my mother lived in the Dementia Unit of the very retirement home where I volunteer. That floor is now known as Memory Care, but I am not fooled by the softer overtones of this more benign term.  Memory loss, whatever you call it, terrifies me.  I started to read Still Alice and couldn't finish it; I will probably never see the movie Away From Her.

But that doesn't mean that I wasn't interested yesterday when 84-year old Hetty, one of my dear, spunky retirement home readers, told me that she had been tested for Alzheimer's.


I asked her about it and she proceeded to describe the battery of tasks and questions used to detect the disease:  draw a clock face that shows 10 minutes to 11; give today's date, month and year; give your age and birth date; count back from 100 by 7s; recall the three items named earlier....

Surely someone who can itemize the details of a test for Alzheimer's passed it.  I wondered why they bothered to test Hetty in the first place.  We speculated that every resident was being tested.  I had just come from another part of the building where everyone who used a scooter was being given a driver's test.  Perhaps it is the "screening season".

However, thanks to Hetty, if I ever get screened I will know what to expect and I will be prepared. I can start right now practicing subtraction by 7's.  Math was never my best subject.

But it might be more to the point if I just kept on with a new knitting project. 

It appears that knitting  (or any kind of crafting or creative pursuit) is faaabulous for the brain. A recent item from CNN Health  enthuses about its extraordinary benefits. It is relaxing, it stimulates neural activity, and releases dopamine. The zen state that accompanies a period of intense concentration while we figure out a tricky pattern is as good as meditation.  Don't knock us knitting grannies.  We are doing more than making mittens. We are engaged in dementia prevention and enjoying a perfectly legal knitter's high.

Hetty has always been a knitter.  Last winter she made so many frilly scarves that she got sick of them. 

Lacy Layered Fashion Scarf, Knitted Lacy Scarf, Frilly Knitted Fashion Scarf
One frilly scarf = lots of new neurons + great satisfaction

She passed the Alzheimer's test, of course. "With flying colours!" she assured me.

I never doubted it.  I'm sure all that knitting gave her an edge.


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