When you try to find the perfect sewing machine for an elderly or handicapped person, there are a couple of extra things to consider. We will go over all the common challenges below, but first, we will look at the short answer.
What is the best sewing machine for older people? For elderly people, a sewing machine similar to a previously owned model (if any) is typically the best one. A simple model without computerized features. Automatic thread needles will also come in handy if the sight is not 100% anymore. We’ve listed some of the best models.
That’s the short answer, but sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that.
Let’s look at common issues first, and then go through a couple of recommendations for old people looking for their next sewing machine.
Does she have experience with previous models/brands?
Old machines often only do straight and zigzag stitches. They are not full of modern tech and computerized features but are easily operated by just a few levers and gears. A big round wheel mounted at the right side instead of digital displays.
You might be able to teach her how to do basic sewing on the digital display, but in everyday use, she might get lost somewhere among all the advanced features.
So a good old mechanical sewing machine might be the best way to go in most cases.
A few simple switches and gears to select basic stitches will do in most cases. Unless she wants to do more advanced stuff like machine quilting, embroidery etc. In that case, you will have to go with a more advanced model.
Physical limitations to consider
Even though our elderly person might not admit it, too often old people and handicapped individuals have trouble doing everyday tasks. A mild physical condition might come sneaking and make it harder to operate a foot pedal or locate the thread.
Let’s look at some common issues:
1) Is she visually impaired?
Many elderly people have trouble focusing on small items like the eye of a needle. Even for young people, it can be a struggle to put the thread through the tiny hole.
If you add a little shake on the hands, threading a sewing machine can be an almost impossible task to complete!
The Janome Jem Gold 660 (retail price is around $240) is a good choice here, as the machine has a super simple system, that will put the thread through the eye of the needle for you:
On the Singer Simple 3223BY (retail price is around $120- 150) it’s a little more work, but still simple:
Both these models also have sufficient lighting, so the workspace is well lit. So even if you are visually impaired you should be able to see what you are sewing, and how everything turns out along the project.
2) Can she operate a foot-pedal for an hour or two?
..and will she be able to do so in the years to come?
A start/stop button can be a good thing if you are not able to control the machine by foot. Keeping a steady tension in the foot can be tough, and old people get cramps more often, so be sure to take that into consideration.
The Brother Laura Ashley CX155LA (retail price is around $260) can be operated without the pedal. This model has a start/stop button on the machine, which you can use instead of the pedal.
When the speed is separately controlled, it can also be set to a constant stable speed. That can be very handy when you need to go really slow. Especially for tricky curves or if you have to go straight for a very visible part of the project.
3) Do her hands shake?
Many old folks and people with Parkinson’s disease shake a little bit on the hands. If her hands shake, you will have to test out how bad it is, and if it can be controlled by touching a surface.
Depending on the condition, most people are able to hold their hands pretty still when resting on a surface. Much like you can do it on a sewing machine.
It that is the case everything is fine, and she will probably not have any trouble operating a sewing machine. Talk to her about this, and help her realize that it might not be a problem.
Putting the eye through the needle might be a problem though.
Again we would highly recommend the Janome Jem Gold 660 here because of the super-easy threading system. It will simply put the thread through the needle for you.
(See how it is done on the first video above).
What is the budget?
Most of the well-known brands like Singer, Brother, Bernina etc. have basic models at a low retail price. The simple mechanical models often start at $99 (or less!), and these models are also the easiest models to use.
They do not have lots of high-tech features and settings, which just might leave an old or a handicapped person confused.
It’s always a good idea to choose a sewing machine from one of the top brands, as you will get the best quality.
By doing so, you also make sure that local repair shops can help you out, if our senior need service on the machine one day.
The cheapest model we have listed in this post is the Singer Simple model, which you can find at $149 at many U.S retailers.
If the budget is very low, you might consider a used model.
You might even be able to find the exact same model, as our elderly person used to operate back in the days. But you should consider what to do if the sewing machine needs service in the future, and maybe it will need spare parts.
Too often old models are impossible to fix because the spare parts are not produced and sold anymore. So unless you can find another model exactly the same, you might experience trouble when the repair shop needs spare parts.
This is one of the reasons we always advise people to choose a new model.
Simple machines we can recommend to older people
We have found some strictly mechanical and super easy-to-use sewing machines for our grown-up audience. We have chosen models from several well-known brands, as everyone has their own favorite brand.
Let start with a model from Janome.
Janome Jem Gold 660
This white beauty is jam-proof with its easy drop-in bobbin and semi-automatic needle threader.
Besides that, it only weighs 12 pounds so can be moved around easily, if the living space is small and the machine has to be placed in a closet when not in use. This is often the case unless we’re talking about a rather big house with a dedicated room for sewing and craftsmanship.
Price range: $220- 250
Not the cheapest model though. When you follow the link above you also find cheaper models with similar specifications.
Singer Simple 3223BY
This model from Singer comes with a front loading bobbin case with a transparent look. So it’s easy to thread the machine and keep track of how much is left on the roll.
It only weighs only 12 pounds like the model above from Janome.
The drop-feed/free motion lets you do free motion quilting as well, even though this is a very simple and mechanic model. Easy to use and quick to learn for old people.
Price range: $150- 200
It also comes in a white finish, and there is also a cheaper model found at the link above.
Brother Laura Ashley CX155LA
This model has a start/stop button, that makes it possible to lose the foot pedal entirely. A good idea if our elderly friend is not able to hold the foot down for long periods of time.
It’s a combined sewing and quilting machine, and it only weighs 11 pounds. Again a good option, if you need to put it away between sessions, or if you want to take it with you once in a while.
It does have a small digital display, but the main features and style of stitches are easy to set manually. The display just lets you know which settings you have chosen, and should be confusing.
Price range: $230-270
Also a good deal. Brother is one of the best brands out there, and a machine like this will last more than one generation.
I hope you now have a better idea about how to make the right choice.
Make sure to investigate which models she has been using back in the day – if any. That’s a good place to start, to make sure our grey-haired or handicapped friend get off to an easy start. The older we get the more we are dependent on things being familiar. Especially if we suffer from Parkinson’s disease or something like that.
If you also take physical disabilities and limitations into account, all should be fine.
There are lots of simple and easy to use models among the new lineup from all the big brands. You can make it a little excursion to go check out some sewing machines in a local shop and see if any of the models look familiar.