Knitted lap pets giving retirees a reason to smile

MATTHEW CATTIN/STUFF

Knitted 'twiddle pets' are giving people living with dementia a reason to smile.

Tonia knits because she likes keeping busy for a good cause.

She also says it keeps her out of trouble.

The retired Peninsula Club resident lives with Alzheimer's, but she doesn't let it slow her down.

Peninsula Club resident Tonia gets to work on a twiddle pet.
Matthew Cattin

Peninsula Club resident Tonia gets to work on a twiddle pet.

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In between reading, crosswords, line dancing, lawn bowls and gardening, Tonia knits every day.

Her latest venture is knitting 'twiddle pets' - lap blankets with decorative pockets and animals, designed as a therapeutic tool for dementia patients.

Dementia Auckland volunteer Carole Wheeler, right, Evelyn Page resident Hazel, and Max.
MATTHEW CATTIN/STUFF

Dementia Auckland volunteer Carole Wheeler, right, Evelyn Page resident Hazel, and Max.

The fluffy creations have been winning smiles at Evelyn Page Retirement Village, where several have been adopted.

Dementia Auckland volunteer Carole Wheeler visits the village weekly with her Pet Outreach pomeranian Max.

She introduced the idea of twiddle pets to the residents, and oversees the wool supply, creation and adoption.

Dementia Auckland fundraising manager Stephanie Maitland said knitting can help dementia sufferers retain purpose.
MATTHEW CATTIN/STUFF

Dementia Auckland fundraising manager Stephanie Maitland said knitting can help dementia sufferers retain purpose.

Getting Tonia on board to help with the patterns was one of the first steps in the venture.

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"At first she said she'd really like to but she didn't think she could do it anymore," Wheeler said.

"She managed to finish one in a couple of weeks, and then I made it into a twiddle pet.

Kathleen's rabbit twiddle pet.
MATTHEW CATTIN/STUFF

Kathleen's rabbit twiddle pet.

"Tonia is a fantastic example of not giving up if you have Alzheimer's."

One of the first recipients of a twiddle pet was Evelyn Page resident Kathleen.

A rabbit - the 95-year-old resident's favourite animal - was an obvious choice for the design.

Growing up in a farm near Gore, Kathleen used to hide rabbits in her bed, and having a twiddle pet to enjoy has taken her back to her youth.

"I love the dear little face of my new rabbit. Even in my old age I still like to be motherly," she said.

Dementia Auckland fundraising manager Stephanie Maitland said people living with dementia can struggle to retain a sense of self and purpose.

"For some people, knitting twiddle pets is a way to retain that purpose."

Adoption papers have been printed out for residents who would like a twiddle pet of their own, and knitters are working to fill demand.

Plans to hold a Crafternoon Tea at Hibiscus Hospice are underway, and Wheeler hopes to soon find sponsorship.

 - Rodney Times

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