It’s never easy to find out that a loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s. These conditions often mean years, or even decades, of dealing with memory loss and confusion. As memory declines, those affected often need a caregiver, who is often a family member.
Mental decline is hard on both the patient and the caregiver. If you have a family member, such as an aging parent, who has been diagnosed with either of these conditions, you both might struggle with the changes. But there are ways to slow down the process through exercising the brain.
Let’s look at three ways stamp collecting can help those that struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease through this process.
Stamp Collecting Provides Mental Exercise
Stamp collecting isn’t just about looking at little pieces of paper and laying them in a collector’s album. The hobby involves much more than that. Each stamp has a story. Each new addition to your collection is a window into history, a glimpse into another time and place.
One of the most enjoyable parts of collecting stamps is collecting the unique story behind each item in your album. If your elderly loved one has a stamp collection, get them to share these stories. Studies have shown that mental exercises can help prevent or slow mental decline in the elderly. If a loved one shows signs of dementia, regular mental workouts can keep that person present and in control much longer.
Stamp collecting can be part of that balanced mental workout! Ask them to recite the names and details of each stamp. It’s a great way to give their brains exercise.
The Alzheimer's semipostal was issued in 2017 and was available for purchase until November 2019. In those two years, $1 million in proceeds from the semipostal (8.2 million stamps sold) were given to the National Institute of Health for research on the disease.
Stamp Collecting Focuses Your Loved Ones on Good Memories
All of us want to keep our memories strong so we don’t forget the positive moments in our lives. The more we hold onto great memories, the more grounded we’ll feel and the surer we’ll be of ourselves and of who we are. We feel safer about where we’re going because we’ll remember where we come from.
Part of improving the quality of life for a person with dementia is to remind them of these times. It’s good to regularly spend time looking through old family picture albums and stamp albums, keeping beloved, cherished memories fresh by recalling them regularly.
Going through collections of stamps can also help people with dementia retain a sense of time and history. Think, for example, about the Legends of Hollywood collection, which was released from 1995 to 2016. This 20-stamp set features legends of the silver screen such as Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, and John Wayne.
When your loved one looks over these iconic, smiling faces, what memories come to his or her mind? Perhaps they remember going to the “picture show” and seeing those legends sing, dance, or act in classic films of Hollywood.
Bringing up these memories will help your loved one stay joyful and grounded, and it will help them to pass down their happy memories to you for cherishing.
Stamp Collecting Allows Seniors to Socialize
We all need to socialize and enjoy the company of our peers. Even the most hermit-like introvert needs human contact every now and again. Humans are social animals, after all.
Unfortunately, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease rob us of social interaction. This is usually not intentional, but the effect is nonetheless quite real. People with dementia become shut off from society and their caregivers often face a great deal of isolation as well as caretaking duties increase.
What can help patients and their families cope? One concept that seems to work well is that of Memory Cafes, social clubs that are dedicated entirely to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones.
Memory Cafe members may meet in libraries or coffee shops or other public locations. Dementia patients and their caregivers play cards and board games, learn to draw or dance, or (you guessed it) share their favorite hobbies.
Stamp collecting works very well as a social activity. Collectors love to attend club meet-ups and conventions, where they share their collections and talk about their favorite stamps.
All in all, this simple hobby holds many advantages for aging minds and hearts, helping to keep the mind sharp, the memory strong, and the soul glad. If you have a loved one with a stamp collection who is getting older, ask them to share their hobby with you. You could even start a historical collection of your own to share with them. Those little photos may spark some wonderful memories.