a senior man looking at a photo album with a male nurse

12 Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Finish the Lyric. Wacky Wordies. Suzy Q Singalong. Junk Drawer Detective. Memory Lane Monday. When it comes to fun games and mind-stimulating activities for seniors with dementia, the sky’s the limit.

Whether they’re done in a group setting or one-on-one, dementia activities should promote emotional connections, encourage self-expression, and help memories come to the surface. Studies have shown when seniors with dementia are happily engaged in fulfilling activities, it can help reduce anxiety, depression, anger and agitation. Cognitive stimulation also may help improve the quality of life for dementia patients and allow them to communicate and interact better with caregivers and loved ones.

In this blog, we’ll explore things to do with dementia patients — from kneading bread and kneading play dough to cutting a rug on the dance floor and cutting pictures from magazines. All these memory care activities can be done at home or at senior living communities that offer memory care programming and activities specifically designed for dementia patients.

12 activities to do with dementia patients

1. Get physical. Exercise and staying active benefits everyone, and that includes seniors with dementia. Activities such as walking, yoga, tai chi, chair exercises, dancing, and riding a tandem or three-wheeled bicycle can help support a better night’s sleep, reduce feelings of isolation and encourage social connections.

And don’t forget about the power of touch. Tactile stimulation such as gently applying lotion to hands and arms, brushing or fixing hair, hugging, walking arm and arm, and soothing shoulder massages can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

2. Grab an apron. Whipping up an old family recipe, baking and cooking simple dishes, and eating them together is an ideal way to spend quality time with a loved one with memory impairment. Not only do they have the chance to do something practical, but when you’re done you get to enjoy a special treat or meal together.

3. Unleash your inner artist. Dementia activities that involve creating art provide ample opportunities for self-expression and creating a sense of purpose. Painting (with a brush or fingers), coloring, drawing and sketching can boost moods and reduce anxiety or depression. Other playful ideas include kneading clay or play dough and making shapes with cookie cutters.

4. Stroll down memory lane. When it comes to stimulating activities to do with dementia patients, you can never go wrong with taking a step back in time. Watch family videos, share “I remember when” stories, look through old photo albums, or re-read old letters or greeting cards. Another way to help your loved one connect to the past is by creating a scrapbook, shadow box or memory book filled with old photos, keepsakes, and objects from past careers or hobbies.

5. Make some noise and take a twirl. Music and dancing offer ways for dementia patients to connect with others even if they’re unable to communicate verbally. Have a dance party, tap a beat while listening to music, play their favorite tunes, or sing songs from their childhood. Dancing and singing provide cardiovascular benefits, but they also help improve moods and reduce symptoms of depression. If dementia patients are upset, play quiet and calming songs to help soothe them.

You and your loved one can even make your own music and musical instruments. Grab a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, fill it with coins, dry beans or pasta, and you’ll have some homemade music shakers.

6. Get crafty. Arts and crafts are some of the most accessible and enjoyable activities for seniors with dementia. They also provide cognitive and sensory stimulation and allow dementia patients to work on motor skills. Some ideas include:

  • Flower arranging
  • Knitting
  • Cutting out pictures from old magazines and calendars and pasting them into a scrapbook or notebook
  • Threading pasta with string or yarn
  • Playing with and dressing dolls
  • Creating a box of assorted pieces of different colored fabrics with various textures such as lace, silk, velvet, wool and felt
  • Stringing beads to make bracelets and necklaces

7. Explore your inner Zen. Focused breathing, movements, postures and visualization engage different parts of the brain. Daily practice of mind-body therapy such as meditation may help improve mood, sleep and quality of life.

8. Dig in the dirt. For a change of scenery, fresh air and exercise, head outside for some garden tending. Digging, weeding, planting and trimming are all well-suited activities for dementia patients at home.

9. Let the games begin. Games are no-fail activities for people with dementia because they can be done at a table, sitting down, standing, in bed or from a wheelchair. There is no shortage of simple ideas to choose from — bingo, checkers, dominoes, Old Maid, Uno or Go Fish. Dementia patients may prefer to use large print playing cards with easy-to-read letters and numbers and shuffle and sort them by suit or color.

Brightly colored puzzle cubes are great for older adults who like to fidget with objects, while word searches and crossword puzzles provide more cognitive stimulation. Another creative idea is to turn a favorite photo into a do-it-yourself picture puzzle.

10. Hit the town. Seniors with memory loss and their loved ones may find joy in engaging in meaningful experiences such as visiting a museum, botanical garden, place of worship or art gallery. Even visiting a local coffee shop and sitting and reading the newspaper together is a great way to mix up a daily routine.

11. Find the funny. Everyone loves a good laugh, and many people with dementia keep their sense of humor and love to be entertained. Explore your playful and silly sides by telling jokes or watching old sketch comedies, standup routines and variety shows online.

12. Keep it tidy. Cleaning up around the house or organizing household or office items is an easy way to keep seniors with dementia engaged. Simple household tasks could include setting or wiping the table, feeding or brushing pets, or sweeping a balcony or patio. Folding laundry, especially towels, can help older adults feel a sense of accomplishment and like they’re contributing to the household.

Memory care activities and support at The Buckingham

Our dedicated, specially trained memory care team members work carefully to employ the most comprehensive and impactful approaches within a household-like environment. When supporting those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, thoughtful and personalized response plays a crucial role in helping residents find purpose, meaning and joy in each new day.

Learn more about the most progressive Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Houston.