Special Fidget Quilts Are Helping Seniors with Dementia Stay Calm and Keep Their Hands Busy


Ann Doebler, who is in her 70s, lives in the Riverwoods Senior-living Community near Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. But she’s not content to just sit around and play old or read books like many seniors are. She’s determined to fill a need where she sees one, even if it means going back to school to do it.

A few years ago, at an Alzheimer’s support group, Ann realized that many of the people in the group suffered from fidgety hands. They couldn’t seem to sit still, their fingers always wanting to move and have something to touch. It was then that she discovered her true calling.

Ann wasn’t a particularly artsy person, but she was determined. She went back to school at Bloomsburg University and graduated with an art degree at the age of 71. Then she got to work making special quilts for some of the residents in her community.

The quilts Ann creates have different themes and incorporate different objects, such as buttons, beads, keychains, jewelry, watches, rosaries, pockets, and textured materials.

So far, Ann has created 17 quilts, all tailored to individual needs and preferences. She’s made a quilt for a man who used to love to go fishing, for example. She says every time he holds it, it makes him feel like he’s going fishing.

“It’s a delight, I have to tell you,” says Ann. “I enjoy it. I hope other people find some benefit to it.” She doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon and often spends a good portion of her days in the art studio at the senior living community, working on her quilts.

Check out the video below to see more of Ann’s work, including the quilt she’s currently working on for someone who likes flowers.

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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