This week, I introduced a new agility activity into the Agile Aging class for my local seniors. Using our Agile Aging hand-crafted felted wool balls, we slowly opened and closed our “Flower Hands” in an exercise that helps soothe and even prevent discomfort from arthritis and circulatory problems. Afterwards, I checked everybody’s hands – and they were all very warm to the touch. Wonderful! You can buy our Wool Balls at our online store.
When I first introduced therapy balls into Agile Aging, I didn’t have many choices to the size, weight, or texture of the balls. I already had plastic and rubber balls that were about 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and they were OK for some games. I tried small 5” blow-up beach balls that were inexpensive to buy in quantity, but the quality was poor – the stopper didn’t stay closed half the time, and the balls were so light they were not as useful for many of the activities. Tennis balls bounced like crazy, and they weren’t beautiful. A custom leather ball was fantastic in some instances, but too heavy for others, and expensive to boot.
One day, while shopping at the Saturday farmers’ market at the San Francisco Ferry Building, I saw a large basket filled with beautiful large (7” or so) felted wool balls that were wonderful to handle. They were expensive, however, so I didn’t buy one, but I studied how they were made. I went home and tried to make one.
Hours later, hands burning from handling the hot wool rovings, I had my first ball. Not quite round, not quite tight, not quite heavy, not quite right. My respect and admiration for the hand crafters of the world got a huge boost that day!
I searched online for the South American source of the wool balls from the farmers’ market. I made phone calls. I talked to toy stores and therapy stores and crafting sites. Finally, I found someone who would try to make a prototype ball for me. After going back and forth several times, adding new weights to the center of the balls and orchestrating color combinations, we built the best ball ever, priced to be affordable.
When the elderly see one of our Agile Aging balls, they reach for it eagerly, for each one is a unique jewel. No two are alike; they are different color combinations of swirls and whirls but with a standard size and weight. Just holding a ball allows a tactile relationship to develop between the wool and the hand. The hand gradually warms the wool, and the ball retains the warmth and sends it back to the hand.
The design on the felting draws the eyes to follow and move along with the ball, allowing the all-important gaze to broaden expansively whether one does the simplest gestures or more complete exercises. The additional weight added to each ball is a bit surprising, and adds to the quality of experiencing oneself in motion and in relation to weight and lightness as the agility activities progress.
Where can you get these wonderful balls? Right here, of course, in our Agile Aging store. We keep a good quantity on hand, no pun intended!