Calming And Fun Activities For People Living With Dementia
We know that finding the best activities to engage people living with dementia can be a real challenge for caregivers. So we’ve compiled the ultimate list here. Read on for our favourite calming and fun activities for people with dementia.
Planning Activities For Loved Ones With Dementia
We’ve included a real range here, as we appreciate that individuals living with dementia are just that – individual!
We need to remember their personality, likes and dislikes from before the dementia diagnosis, and incorporate that into the activity. Think back – if there was a particular hobby that they loved before, then see how you can make the activity less complex and include it in their daily routine.
Hopefully our meaningful selection of dementia activity ideas will help to inspire you (and we’ve got more in this article on the best puzzles for dementia too).
Our list of calming and fun dementia activities caters for different functioning levels and budgets (you may choose to invest in some products but we have also included our favourite free and cost-effective dementia activities).
All these therapeutic activity ideas are designed to provide the right level of stimulation for the person with dementia. Stimulating sensory activities can help keep them engaged, feeling present and happy whilst reducing feelings of anxiety and irritability.
One last pearl of wisdom before we get into the ultimate list of dementia friendly activities. You’re doing a fantastic job caring for your elderly loved one with dementia. Don’t forget this, and go easy on yourself.
If you try one of these activities and it isn’t a success, then don’t give up. A lot can depend on your loved one’s mood or ability on the day. Pick another appropriate dementia friendly activity and give it a go!
The Ultimate List of Calming And Fun Activities For People With Dementia
This relaxing virtual seaside activity focuses on texture and touch and is a great one for any beach fans living with dementia. Fill an old shoe box with some sand and shells and let them experience the different feelings. If you’re their family caregiver, talk with them about past holidays.
You could also play some gentle beach waves music. The powerful effects of music on memory are well documented (the Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing For The Brain groups use music therapy for dementia) and these sensations altogether could help to engage and calm your loved one whilst keeping them in high spirits.
Dementia Friendly TV
My Life TV is like Netflix for people living with dementia. This innovative on-demand video streaming service offers programmes that have been created or adapted to suit the cognitive needs of someone with dementia. Content such as ‘ the gift of laughter’, ‘cute kittens’ and footage of gardeners working at Kew Gardens has been designed to boost mood and engage.
This dementia TV channel is the brainchild of My Life Films, a charity that uses film-making to improve the lives of people with dementia. It runs on a secure web platform powered by Vimeo so is easily accessible on mobile or desktop and can be cast to the TV. Subscribe online now for £4 per month.
That’s right, we’re talking about Lego, the colourful building blocks which you may remember from your childhood (or your children play with).
There are many benefits to Lego therapy for people with dementia. Building something with your loved one can encourage conversation, concentration and confidence, and it’s also good for maintaining hand dexterity.
With dementia, it’s often the older memories that rise to the surface. So if your parent played with Lego during their childhood, or with you when you were younger then this activity may ground them and in some way remember that. Even if the memory isn’t clear, playing with Lego could make them feel happy.
We recommend this classic Lego set. There’s no specific product to be built, so your loved one can just enjoy putting the pieces together. There’s no pressure to get it right, just to have fun and interact.
Lego sets differ in difficulty but if this activity is too advanced or your parent lacks hand dexterity then you can always get Duplo building blocks instead. Duplo blocks are larger so easier to handle. They don’t need as much precision to connect the blocks so if your parent is lacking in co-ordination then these less fiddly blocks could be the answer.
Gardening can be a very therapeutic activity. A dementia friendly garden, where the person living with dementia can interact with nature safely, can bring back memories of the past – for example, smelling the flowers and hearing the birds.
If the weather doesn’t allow for a trip into a dementia garden, then you can always bring the garden inside with indoor gardening activities.
For a relaxing indoor activity, this Build A Garden set can bring joy to your loved one. These garden building blocks are interchangeable, meaning your parent can find endless combinations that work, and the colourful blooms will keep them happy.
If your mum or dad has the motor skills, they can have fun creating their dream garden but equally it works for loved ones with more advanced dementia. You could make it in front of them, using it as a talking point to stimulate conversation. Or even just having the bright design built for them will give them a different view.
Listen To Music
Music can make living with dementia easier and happier, and it is often used in dementia care. If you watched the BBC One documentary ‘Our Dementia Choir’ you will understand the power of music on dementia, as people remembered lyrics long forgotten.
For a therapeutic dementia-friendly activity, try Playlist for Life. It’s free and encourages people living with dementia, or their caregivers to create a musical playlist based on the individual’s life. Whether your elderly parent loves Dolly Parton or classical music, you can make a playlist catering to their musical taste.
Often, people with dementia show their anxiety in their hands by fidgeting restlessly. A fidget blanket (also known as a busy blanket, dementia blanket or fidget quilt) is a calming and stimulating activity that offers tactile stimulation to help with this.
How does it work? Well a fidget blanket has different objects attached to it for the dementia patient to fidget with. They may include ribbons, buttons, beads and tassles. They encourage your loved one to focus on the object in hand (literally!), giving them an outlet to relieve any tension and restlessness.
This fiddle muff is super soft and designed to sit comfortably in the lap. Hands and wrists can be placed in the cavity (there’s a different material there to the outer for extra contrast) and you can see the additions on the outside. There’s silky smooth ribbons to feel, roll in fingers and plait. A bracelet of wooden balls that are smooth to touch and can be rotated and moved on the string. The interior features a curved colourful toy which encourages interaction.
The sensory lights in lava lamps, which were popular in the 90s, can help people living with dementia by providing soothing lamp stimulation. They can happily watch the sensory lighting and the motion and the colour change can help them to relax.
We’ve chosen a lava lamp with these specific blue and green colours for a reason.
You might not think that bright colours like these can calm and relax but with dementia, brighter blue and green (as well as red) are thought to be the most engaging colours. Evidence shows that blue can calm someone down (it’s proven to reduce blood pressure). Bright green is believed to hold attention and also relax.
One of our clients who lives with dementia was watching Tom & Jerry when we saw her recently. She was interacting with the cartoon characters and following the story. Similar to the power of music, short animations which people are familiar with from their childhood can help improve concentration. A great calming dementia activity.
DIY Memory Boxes
A memory box (also known as a keepsake box) is a great activity for people with dementia. Based on reminiscence therapy, it’s essentially a time capsule that transports your elderly parent with dementia back in time.
Making memory boxes is something you can do together, plus it’s a cost-effective activity. For personalized memory box ideas, fill an old shoe box with photos and other memorable items from their life. Cover the shoe box in a tactile fabric in their favourite colour or more old photos. As dementia mainly affects short-term memory, going through a keepsake box together can encourage the person with dementia to talk with you about their past.
Libraries across the UK also have memory boxes available for rent, themed around topics such as gardening or the history of your local area.
Maybe your mum or dad has moved into a care home and couldn’t keep their pet, or perhaps they are just an animal lover.
Whatever the situation, animals are proven to help people with dementia relax, so it’s no surprise that these lifelike robot pet cats and dogs are popular.
Battery operated, they really do mimic the real animal, with brushable fur, a beating mechanism for its heart and will purr or bark when stroked.
Our favourite brand is Joy For All which is where the below cat is from (but they also have other animals). Doesn’t it look cute?!
People who have bought these for their loved ones comment that the pet really is the perfect companion. Their parents talk to the animal, stroke them, name them – they really love them, and it’s easy to see the joy this lifelike toy brings. Yes, they’re a more expensive option but it could be worth its weight in gold.
Stimulating games, such as memory games, conversation games and interactive games are great for older people with dementia, promoting cognitive exercise and brain stimulation.
When searching for games for people with dementia, go for options that are visually striking, colourful and large format – making it as easy as possible for the person with memory loss to play. Depending on their level of dementia, they could play on their own or with you. We really like sets which are by Relish, a company that creates sensory and stimulating games for people with memory loss.
This conversation game is an association puzzle designed to act as a form of speech therapy for the player.
We love a jigsaw puzzle – there’s something about making a picture isn’t there! And jigsaws are great activities for people living with dementia. Jigsaws for dementia are created so as to not be too complex, form an easy-to-see picture and consist of large pieces.
We like this 35-piece set of a seascape from Relish (our go-to for dementia games). They make quality products and their jigsaws are no different – large pieces that are easy to handle, beautiful images and the jigsaws are all designed to be made in the box they come in so your parent can even do it on their lap.
Go For A Walk
Exercise at any age is important, and this doesn’t stop with a dementia diagnosis. Take your elderly parent out for a walk around the block, or drive to a spot that they are familiar with. Make sure it won’t be too busy (don’t go to a shopping centre for example), but any physical activity is better than none.
Colouring In And Painting
Adult colouring in has been linked recently to mindfulness, and this is true for dementia patients too. For a free printable activity, search for colouring in templates online. We like this site for free dementia activity resources. Or why not trace a map of their home town and see if they can colour that in?
Like we said above, people with dementia show their anxiety in their hands by fidgeting. Folding towels is an easy and free activity to try which is safe and gives them something to focus their hands on instead.
Virtual Zoo Tours
Watching animals can be relaxing, so we love the chance to use virtual zoo tours for people with dementia. Give your parent an iPad and explore Chester Zoo without leaving the armchair with this virtual tour.
Wordsearch puzzles can vary in difficulty so you can find one to match your parent’s ability. We like large print wordsearch puzzle books (so that everything is in one place) but family caregivers can also make a personalized printable wordsearch online, choosing words that mean something to your parent.
There’s also this fantastic large print book full of 80 brain puzzles for adults with memory loss. Including large print crossword, word search, spot the difference and more.
So there you have it, our top list of calming and fun activities for people living with dementia. If you’re their primary carer, or just looking for some ideas and inspiration, we hope you’ve found something here. Leave a comment and let us know how you get on!
Frequently Asked Questions
When planning activities for loved ones for dementia, you need to think about their personality, likes and dislikes. We’ve rounded up our favourite calming and fun dementia activities – there’s a real range and some are free activities.
Some great dementia activities to buy for your elderly loved one include:
Robot toys: These lifelike toys mimic real animals and are a calming activity
Large print puzzles: Large print crosswords and other puzzles can be fun for some people with dementia. They come in varying levels of difficulty and this can be a free activity if you search for dementia printables online.