4 health benefits of working with your hands

Hands-on activities help promote your physical and mental health

Closeup of a senior man's hands with a tape measure, marking a piece of wood with a pencil.

When Pete Geyeman enters the woodshop at Good Samaritan Society – St. Martin Village, his hands get busy measuring wood, guiding a saw and gluing pieces together.

At 88, he started woodworking a little over three years ago after moving into his senior apartment.

“It’s a place to fiddle around and try something new. And if a project goes bad, it makes good firewood,” he said.

Using your hands helps you stay both mentally and physically active. This can include activities like baking, gardening or sewing.

Here are a few benefits you gain when your hands and brains get busy creating.

1. A sense of accomplishment

When Geyeman moved to St. Martin Village, “I thought, this is perfect because I don’t have to do a darn thing. All I have to do is relax,” he said.

But after a few months, Geyeman was ready for more activity than movies or reading had to offer. When the woodshop opened up, fellow residents, including Dave Ditmer, encouraged him to come over.

“Dave was able to show me how to use this and that,” Geyeman said, “so I’ve been really busy over there practically every day.”

2. Staying active

Woodworking keeps Geyeman moving. You’ll find him at the lumberyard picking out a variety of wood. In the shop, he cuts the wood into rings with different diameters. After gluing the rings together, he used a lathe to carve and smooth the edges. The result is a multi-layered wooden bowl.

He also has to do the brainwork of careful concentration.

“You have to pay attention to what you’re doing, especially if you’re working around saws,” Geyeman said.

Other hands-on activities to explore:

  • Needlepoint
  • Painting/drawing
  • Knitting/crocheting
  • Journaling
  • Origami
  • Collage-making
  • Sewing
  • Metalworking

3. Fostering creativity

Geyeman enjoys making bowls and birdhouses and is always looking for new projects. He’s made crosses for church and has done some furniture, although that’s not his favorite type of woodworking.

“It’s really a fun, inexpensive hobby,” he said. “I like to use different exotic woods and so forth, which is a new challenge.” He’s used plywood before, too, and always keeps an eye out for something new to experiment with.

4. Satisfaction through lifelong learning

The last time Geyeman was in a woodshop was in high school in 1948, but it wasn’t until his move to St. Martin Village that he learned how to do fine woodworking.

Earlier this year, staff and fellow woodworkers encouraged him to enter a few of his projects in the local county fair. Geyeman received a best overall award along with four first-class ribbons.

For others searching for a new hobby or interest, his advice is to “do something that keeps you active.”

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Posted In Healthy Living, Senior Services

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