Staying engaged, active, and mentally stimulated is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. In addition to finding ways for seniors to maintain their daily routines, there are other activities that have proved helpful for those who have dementia, including games, exercise, and hobbies. In addition to encouraging social engagement, activities such as these also help to provide structure and routine, which can help to maintain cognitive function and self-esteem and calm anxiety.
For help sparking new ideas for activities that will keep your loved one (and even you!) busy and engaged, we have rounded up seven dementia-friendly activities from those who have experience working with those who are living with the disease.
Card or Board Games
Board and card games are fun, stimulating, and engaging mental challenges, especially for seniors with dementia. Even more so, classic board and card games are easy to set up, can be played again and again, and can help bring back memories of playing these games decades earlier. You can also ask other friends and family members to play along too, if they like, which can help foster the social aspects of the games and create new memories.
Enjoy a Movie or Documentary
If your loved one has a favorite movie, actor, or topic, put together your own watch party to help your loved one reminisce about the past, reconnect with what they first enjoyed about it, and just relax. Access to old movies, classic TV shows, and documentaries is easier than ever, and your loved one can enjoy them or use them to spark conversation.
Physical activity can have many benefits for people with dementia, including helping to regulate sleep, prevent restlessness, and even ease frustration. Depending on one's fitness level and age, take a walk around the neighborhood with a pet, look for animals or birds around your home, or enjoy some easy stretching or yoga movements that are especially geared toward seniors with dementia.
Read the Newspaper
If your loved one has a favorite section of the newspaper — whether it’s the sports section, business, advice, or lifestyle — it can be hugely engaging to talk with them about recent topics or sports teams. Talk with them about recent events or ask their opinion, which can not only spark a stimulating discussion, but can also help to reconnect them with their youth.
Arts and crafts are a wonderful way to help your loved one express themselves while also exploring their creative side, especially if they already have a favorite hobby or are open to trying something new, such as coloring. Crafting can be a great way to provide a wide range of sensory stimulation and cognitive engagement, and the results of their work can be shared as gifts or as a way to brighten up their living space.
With all of the music apps and streaming services available, it is easier than ever to access songs from every era and genre. Take advantage and together pick a song that your loved one enjoyed when they were a young adult and sing along.
Sorting combines the benefits of fine motor skills and cognitive stimulation. Sort a deck of cards, sewing supplies, nuts and bolts, or candy, or organize clothes in a closet or dresser. Items can be sorted by size or color, for example, and supplies can be sorted over and over again.
As with anyone else, keep in mind that everyone enjoys different activities, so stay attuned to what your loved one is enjoying and what fits their personality, needs, and skill levels. It is equally important to remember that these activities can also spark meaningful engagement with your loved one, and they are often among the few ways that your loved one can still engage their memories and communicate. So focus on the journey and not the results!
If you want to learn more about how to help senior loved ones live with dementia, you can also reach out to the team at Arbor Terrace Fairfax. In addition to having decades of experience in senior living communities, Arbor Terrace Fairfax facilitates the innovative Bridges program, which provides a custom experience for each individual senior to ease the transition from independent or assisted living as symptoms allow and maintain as much independence as possible.
For more information about this program, support in making the right choice, or to schedule a tour, you can contact the team here.