By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An elderly group in Northeast Philadelphia is feeling especially thankful this Thanksgiving as they have a special mission that’s helping to keep them healthy and feeling useful.

Doctors say that keeping elderly people engaged improves their lives and overall health.

At the KleinLife center in Northeast Philadelphia, a group of knitters is also giving back.

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Their hands and minds are busy knitting, not scarves and sweaters, as they make special knit panels that are used in high fashion handbags.

Toby Strogatz came up with the idea for Mim & Ray handbags as a way to empower elderly knitters at the KleinLife center.

“I’m helping them feel involved and important and feel valued, with a sense of purpose,” said Strogatz.

Many seniors can feel isolated and lonely around the holidays, but here the knitters have social interaction and friendship, a critical part of healthy aging.

“It’s nice to meet other people, talk to each other and exchange ideas and feel useful, and for older people feeling useful is a big deal,” said knitter Karen Moses. “You see other people being vital and it makes you feel more alive.”

Moses and Judy Herman say knitting also helps keep their brains active and sharp.

“It keeps me focused, you have to think,” said Herman.

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There’s also a lot of hand-eye coordination with knitting.

Knitting together isn’t just keeping this group healthy, they get paid, too, and proceeds from the bag sales help fund more programs at KleinLife.

“I feel I’m giving back as well as it’s benefiting me,” said Berman.

“When you’re carrying your Mim & Ray bag you feel so good because of the knitting and you know that a senior knitted that piece of wool,” said Strogatz. “The whole mission is knitted with love and style with a purpose.”

The bags are available online and at special events. Prices range from a $100 to thousands. The programs at KleinLife provide services to thousands of people.

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