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Activities That Can Help Seniors with Dementia

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A senior man with glasses holding a small flat brush in his right hand while holding an acrylic paper on his left hand as he smiles directly at the camera

If you have a loved one living with dementia—or any form of memory impairment—you know how important it is to keep their minds and bodies active. However, it can be difficult to care for a loved one with memory loss and constantly think of new ideas to keep your loved one stimulated.

Whether they live alone, in memory care, or with you, there are many activities you can do together that can help to stimulate their minds, keep them moving, and foster a sense of bonding. 

Activities that can help seniors with dementia include:

  1. Arts and crafts
  2. Exercising together
  3. Storytelling
  4. Board games
  5. Music therapy
  6. Baking and cooking together 
  7. Gardening

Each of these activities can be an excellent way to help your loved one live a fulfilling life.

1. Arts & Crafts

Most—if not all—of us have felt the joy of creating something beautiful with our own hands. And for seniors with dementia, arts and crafts can be a soothing and therapeutic experience. 

Whether it’s painting, sculpting, knitting, or even calligraphy, arts and crafts give seniors a way to express their thoughts and feelings—which can be helpful when words become challenging.

It’s not just about the art—it’s about the journey and the ability to express their own individuality. The process of creation can even stimulate memory, improve motor skills, and give a sense of accomplishment. And all of those are wonderful things for a senior living with dementia.

2. Exercise

Who doesn’t love a little bit of movement? Exercise isn’t just good for the body—it’s great for the mind, too. In fact, physical exercise can have excellent benefits for seniors experiencing any form of memory impairment. 

Simple exercises like walking, stretching, or even chair yoga can help seniors with dementia improve their physical strength and balance, reducing the risk of falls. But it doesn’t stop there! Regular exercise can also boost their mood and sleep quality, and in some situations, it can help slow down the progression of cognitive decline.  And it gives you a chance to join your loved one and improve your own physical health at the same time. 

3. Storytelling

Storytelling can be a powerful tool for seniors with dementia. It allows them to tap into their long-term memories, reinforce their self-identity, and share their experiences with others. 

Whether it’s telling you tales from their youth or creating new stories based on picture prompts, storytelling can provide cognitive stimulation, improve language skills, and foster a stronger sense of connection with others.

And the nature of human conversation means that your loved one will have to use different parts of their brain to carry on a conversation. It can help them use their problem-solving skills and memory recall and even may help reduce stress. So, if you’re not sure what to do when you’re spending time with a loved one with dementia, ask them to tell you a story!

4. Board Games

Board games aren’t just about fun and laughter—they’re about brain power, too! Playing simple board games can help seniors with dementia:

  • Boost their cognitive function
  • Improve their problem-solving skills
  • Socialize with the people around them 
  • Have a sense of routine and structure by playing something familiar

Rolling a dice, handling cards, or moving game pieces can add a wonderful bit of brightness to their day and improve their mood. And the thrill of healthy competition can add a little spark to their day!

5. Music Therapy

Music has a unique way of touching our souls. For seniors with dementia, music therapy can be a lifeline. Listening to or playing music can trigger memories, evoke emotions, and provide comfort. 

Many people think learning an instrument means you have to try and be the best, or that singing is about saying the right words perfectly every time. But it’s not about that.. It’ss about experiencing the joy and calm that music brings. Music can help seniors with dementia flex their memory muscles by prompting them to remember songs from their youth or important times in their life, and can bring joy to their day every time the music plays.

6. Baking & Cooking

The kitchen is often the heart of a home, filled with delicious smells and warm memories. If you’re spending time with your loved one, baking or cooking can be an excellent past time as it can help to:

  • Stimulate the senses
  • Give a sense of accomplishment
  • Enhance their fine motor skills
  • Encourage for problem-solving 

Plus, who can resist the joy of sharing a homemade treat? Remember, it’s not about the perfect recipe or making the most visually appealing meal—it’s about the love that goes into making it. 

7. Gardening

There’s something therapeutic about gardening. The smell of fresh earth, the feel of soil in your hands, the sight of a blooming flower—it’s a sensory delight! For seniors with dementia, gardening can:

  • Provide physical exercise
  • Cause the need for memory recall (like remembering which plants need water or weeding)
  • Promote relaxation

Whether it’s tending to a flower pot or a vegetable patch, gardening can bring immense joy and satisfaction.

A senior man and a senior woman smiling while gardening outside.

Supporting a Loved One with Dementia

Supporting a loved one with dementia requires compassion and patience. It’s about understanding their world, engaging them in activities they enjoy, and creating a safe, familiar environment for them.  Here at The Legacy at Santa Fe, we’re here to help. We believe each and every one of our residents deserves a high quality of life, so we offer many different programs, services, and amenities. Book a tour with us today.

Written by LifeWell

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