Surprising ways to keep your mind sharp when you’re older

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When a group of ladies gather round a large craft crocheting table at StitchPoint in Greensboro, it may look like they're just gabbing to pass the time, but each stitch they make is making them sharper.

According to a Mayo Clinic study, recently out, older adults who keep up with their mid-life arts and crafts pastimes, are more than 73 percent less likely to have thinking and memory problems in their later years.

"I've had a lot of women come in and say, 'I just need a yarn fix,'" said owner Patsy Smith. "It's therapeutic, just makes you relax and takes your mind off things that might be bothering you."

Mayo Clinic researchers say the repetitive nature of knitting and other hands-on hobbies maintains or strengthens the function of brain cells, lowers the risk of fuzzy thinking and can help strengthen your memory.

Jerrold Griffis, 80, says he knows his woodworking hobby isn't beneficial just for his physical health. "If I didn't have this, I'd be in real trouble. There's no question about it, I always tell others that if you just sit around, you're going to rust out, real quick."

The benefits of hobbies and activities may extend past making your mental health better. Researchers say knitters who suffer from chronic pain may feel less discomfort while working with needles and yarn.