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Activities That Can Help Seniors with Dementia

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Two senior men sitting across from each other at a table playing a game of chess in a park.

Seniors living with dementia face unique challenges in their daily lives. As their cognitive abilities decline, it’s increasingly important to provide personalized care and amenities that promote engagement, well-being, and a sense of purpose. 

Indoor and outdoor activities, activities for the mind, physical activity, social activity, and family time can positively impact seniors’ overall quality of life, helping those living with dementia to maintain their dignity, independence, and social connections. 

Dementia in Seniors

Dementia is a group of progressive neurological disorders that primarily affects seniors, causing a decline in cognitive function, memory loss, and impaired decision-making ability. It’s commonly associated with aging, and the most common type od dementia is Alzheimer’s disease

While there’s no cure for neurodegenerative dementias like Alzheimer’s, early detection, proper diagnosis, and implementation of appropriate interventions can help manage symptoms and behavior changes and enhance the well-being of seniors living with dementia.

Amenities available to memory care residents in senior communities can include the following:

  • Landscaped gardens and walking pathways
  • Common areas based on memory care best practices
  • Cafes, markets, and restaurant-style dining
  • Daily social activities led by skilled teams
  • Volunteer opportunities

Activities for Seniors with Dementia

To support loved ones with dementia to continue living an engaging and fulfilling life, encourage doing suitable activities they can continue to do throughout the different stages of the disease. Activities can include ones where they are passive observers or actively participate in. 

Indoor Activities

Indoor activities can be both therapeutic and enjoyable for seniors with dementia. Art activities, like painting, drawing, or doing crafts, can double as a form of communication when verbal abilities decline. Other indoor activities can include:

  • Listening to their favorite music
  • Looking at family photo albums
  • Having afternoon tea
  • Watching their favorite shows or sports on television
  • Creating with clay or play dough

Outdoor Activities

Nature can have a calming effect on loved ones with dementia and help to stimulate their senses. Spending time outdoors while ensuring their safety and providing assistance can have many benefits, with sights, sounds, and smells enhancing well-being and cognitive function. 

Engaging in outdoor activities can include:

  • Gardening
  • Bird watching
  • Taking walks
  • Feeding the birds
  • Sitting in a park
  • Watching dogs at a dog park
  • Playing catch or tossing a ball
  • Visiting a beach or forest preserve
  • Having a picnic

Activities for the Mind

Activities that help with cognitive function and mental stimulation can include:

  • Playing board games, cards, or dominoes
  • Playing computer games
  • Doing a puzzle
  • Reading a book, magazine, or newspaper together
  • Writing or type letters to family and friends
  • Playing an instrument
  • If their long-term memory is intact, ask a loved one about their childhood, siblings, school, pets, or first car.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity, such as gentle exercise and movement, can benefit those with dementia, helping to improve mobility, balance, and overall well-being. 

Encourage seniors with dementia to participate in activities such as:

  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Stretching
  • Taking walks 

You can tailor exercises to their abilities to promote safety. Physical activity can also be combined with social interactions, such as group walks or seated exercise classes, to promote social engagement.

Social Activity

Social activity and community engagement are vital for seniors with dementia. Loneliness and isolation can worsen cognitive function over time. Organized group activities allow for more interaction in a supportive and inclusive environment. These can include:

  • Game nights
  • Book clubs
  • Hobby groups
  • Video calls with family
  • Attending a place of worship
A senior woman and her daughter sitting on a couch smiling and talking to each other while having a cup of tea.

Family Time Holiday Activities

Spending time with family and following family traditions can strengthen existing family connections and create new memories together. Reminiscing can be a powerful tool for seniors with dementia as they can tap into long-term memory and spark conversations. These can include:

  • Taking photos of a loved one
  • Creating a family tree together
  • Baking family favorite holiday desserts
  • Carving a pumpkin or make a pumpkin pie
  • Decorating a Christmas tree
  • Creating holiday greeting cards
  • Watching a favorite holiday movie

Planning Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Depending on the level of functioning or stage of dementia, look at what a loved one can do and break down the activity into simple tasks. Before engaging in activities, it’s essential to create a calming environment. A soothing and familiar setting can help reduce agitation and anxiety. 

Improving the Quality of Life for Seniors with Dementia

Creating a calming environment, engaging in reminiscing and memory activities, exploring artistic expressions, encouraging gentle exercise, incorporating music, engaging with nature, and promoting socialization can all positively impact a loved one’s quality of life. By approaching their ability to do activities with warmth and compassion, seniors with dementia can maintain their dignity, independence, and social connections as they navigate the challenges of this condition. 

If you’re looking for personalized care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, contact Barton House Nashville or book a tour to see what our community has to offer. 

Written by Melanie Wallace

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