A group of residents living at a Hanover Housing Association retirement development in Hackney have found that a regular knit and natter group is helping them to combat loneliness and isolation, while also allowing them to reveal their craft insights and personal stories.
The Lea View Social Club, which meets fortnightly, is a fun and interesting way for residents to meet up, share ideas and catch up on the latest gossip over a cup of tea and a ball of wool.
The club is the brainchild of Hanover’s estate manager Pat Blake, who noticed that some of the residents were becoming more aloof due to a lack of motivation and decreased mobility. The group has now grown to over a dozen residents, ranging in age from 58 to 96 years.
Popping in to see the group in action was Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. She saw first hand the difference the club is making to the residents and how social interaction is now thriving on the estate.
Along with enjoying the festivities, Ms Abbott was also treated to a personal serenade from 79-year-old resident Laurence Jeffrey, who gave a rendition of 'Here in My Heart' by pop crooner Al Martino. The song was the first number one on the UK Singles Chart when it began in 1952, holding the top spot for a record nine weeks.
The craft workshop activities have proven to be a lifeline for two of the estates oldest residents, 96-year-old Elfreda Powell and 94-year-old Elsie Payne, who enjoy the social element the club provides and the chance to show off their creative skills.
In Elfreda’s case, the benefits of learning a new hobby have included a marked improvement in her mobility, whilst Elsie enjoys the social element and singing old songs with her fellow yarn enthusiasts.
Hanover resident Jennifer Thomas said: ‘Knitting has been called the new yoga – it’s calming, helps focus the mind and is great way to improve my hand coordination, so it really does have health benefits. It’s a surprisingly relaxing and therapeutic way to spend time with my neighbours and friend Beaulah, who we were fortunate to have in our group as she was instrumental in steering those who were interested to learn and gain lots of knowledge. There is a sense of achievement that comes when you finish off an item, be it a scarf, beanie or even a toilet roll cover!’
Pat Blake said: ‘Over the past few months it has been an exhilarating and rewarding experience to see how the club has touched the lives of residents. Each time the social club meets, residents happily show off their sewing and knitting skills as they create hats, gloves, jumpers and small tapestries. As an added bonus, residents are now meeting up after the club and arranging their own social activities.’
Recent research points towards the positive therapeutic role knitting and craftwork can play, with one study published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy showing 47 per cent of respondents felt that knitting 'usually' or 'definitely' helped them think through problems. The results also showed doing the activity in a group impacted significantly on perceived happiness, improved social contact and communication with others.