20 Engaging & Meaningful At-Home Activities for People with Dementia


Written by:

In a world marked by the growing challenge of dementia, creating a comforting yet stimulating home environment for seniors can transform into a deeply gratifying journey of connection. This guide invites you to explore a variety of engaging activities that reignite joy, bolster cognitive health, and nurture emotional tranquility for seniors with dementia. From tactile crafts and reminiscence sessions to sensory experiences and technological marvels, each activity can be tailored to enrich the lives of dementia-affected seniors within the loving confines of their own homes.

Image Credit: boonstudio/ istock.

Key Takeaways

  1. Dementia patients can benefit from creative activities. Painting, music, crafts, and other sensory activities keep seniors engaged and allow opportunities for emotional expression.
  2. Reminiscence activities provide cues to recall cherished memories. This form of therapy is gentle and comforting, promoting cognitive exercise without causing stress or confusion.
  3. Activities that align with a senior’s level of cognition can improve their quality of life. Simple tasks like folding laundry and solving puzzles can provide feelings of accomplishment and self-worth.
  4. When choosing activities for seniors with dementia, consider their abilities. Activities for seniors in any stage of dementia should ideally be simple, enjoyable, and familiar to reduce frustration and anxiety.

Image Credit: peakSTOCK/ istock.

Creative Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Navigating the complexities of dementia can seem overwhelming, but creating a comforting home environment filled with stimulating activities can illuminate the path forward. One way to keep dementia patients engaged is to delve into their past interests or talents.

Niki Gewirtz, a senior new hire support specialist at A Place for Mom and former executive director of a memory care community, recommends gaining a deep understanding of your loved one’s hobbies and strengths so that you can tailor activities to their interests and abilities.

Explore the following activities to help stir up a loved one’s former passions and strengths.

1. Experiment with sounds. Music has a profound effect on people with dementia, stimulating memories and encouraging creativity. Introducing simple musical instruments or songs can offer positive experiences for seniors with dementia.

2. Encourage visual expression. Painting and drawing are ways to express feelings safely and creatively. Encourage the use of bold, bright colors on big surfaces. Rolls of butcher paper enable seniors with dementia to create without encountering the stress of defined spaces. These types of visual activities for dementia patients not only are fun, but they can also be therapeutic, as they promote emotional expression.

3. Explore sensory craft experiences. Activities involving different textures, such as playing with clay, offer tactile stimulation for dementia patients. Crafting with these materials, or even exploring different shapes and sizes, can be beneficial and enjoyable.

4. Create collages. Cut out images from magazines, or print old ads and articles. Choose subjects that fit your loved one’s interests, like cooking, cars, or fashion. Another idea is to scan and print old family pictures. Let your family member with dementia arrange and rearrange the elements to create pictures or scrapbook pages.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Reminiscence Activities for Dementia Patients at Home

Engaging in reminiscence therapy activities is a delightful way to help your loved ones recall cherished memories and exercise their cognitive abilities. These dementia activities utilize sensory and visual cues to gently guide seniors through their past, making them both meaningful and comforting.

5. Relive the past with classic movies and TV shows. Keep dementia patients engaged by arranging nostalgic movie nights. Whether they were fans of Westerns like Gunsmoke or adored musicals like The King and I, watching these old favorites can provide both entertainment and memory stimulation.

6. Look through photo albums. One of the most heartwarming activities for dementia seniors involves revisiting old photo albums. Filled with images from their younger years, these albums can help to reignite treasured memories. You can also digitize these pictures and create virtual memory books to make this more interactive.

7. Journey back in time. Before the era of modern shopping, catalogs and magazines played a significant role in staying informed about trends. Finding copies or reprints of magazines they once enjoyed, such as Life or Cosmopolitan, or even the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, can be one of the most engaging things to keep dementia patients busy and content.

8. Listen to music and sing. “Music can awaken the brain, and with it, the rich trove of memories that are associated with familiar songs,” according to the nonprofit group Music and Memory. Stream classics or sing memorable songs like holiday carols. Sing-alongs and music classes were more common in midcentury schools, and you might be surprised at how many songs your loved one remembers from childhood.

Image Credit: Jovanmandic/ istockphoto.

Fulfilling Activities for People with Dementia at Home

Enriching activities for seniors with dementia can significantly contribute to their quality of life, fostering feelings of achievement and self-worth. These dementia activities should be tailored to the senior’s cognitive level, helping them feel engaged and productive without being overwhelmed.

9. Fold laundry. This routine task is one of the most calming activities for seniors with dementia. The familiar process of folding soft fabrics and the scent of classic detergents can evoke comforting memories. Start with uncomplicated items like hand towels and T-shirts for this simple yet fulfilling task.

10. Engage in handy activities. For people who enjoy do-it-yourself projects, suggest activities that yield visible results. Painting wooden boards or assembling PVC pipes are ideal activities for dementia patients, particularly for seniors with good motor function. For people with more advanced dementia, wooden or plastic play tools can offer a similar sense of achievement.

11. Untie knots. This is one of the tactile activities for dementia patients that can keep them engaged. Tie loose knots along a durable, comfortable rope. The act of untying can provide both cognitive and physical stimulation without causing frustration or discomfort.

12. Do a puzzle. Certain types of puzzles are ideal for seniors with dementia — large-piece, color, or shape puzzles with tactile pieces — because they can be both entertaining and cognitively beneficial.

13. Play a game. Board games like Guess Who? and Battleship are ideal because they stimulate memory and cognitive skills in a fun and engaging way while being straightforward enough not to cause confusion or frustration. Guess Who? can help with facial recognition and memory, while Battleship encourages strategic thinking. Even more playful options like a remote-controlled pet can bring immense joy and engagement. These toys can stimulate a sense of caring and provide amusement as your loved one controls the pet’s movements.

Image Credit: shironosov / istockphoto.

Sensory Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Invigorating the senses can be one of the most powerful activities for seniors with dementia at home. The following dementia activities can stimulate the senses and evoke fond memories, leading to a more fulfilled and engaged life for your loved ones.

14. Stop and smell the roses. Scents can trigger stronger emotional memories than visuals, as they’re processed in the brain’s memory control areas. Surrounding your loved one with familiar smells, like fresh-cut grass or the aroma of warm bread, could evoke joyful memories and emotions. It’s crucial to avoid smells that could cause distress — for example, diesel fuel or gunpowder can be triggers for older veterans.

15. Touch the past. Engaging in tactile activities for dementia patients can stimulate reminiscence. Even if they can’t recall specific events, touching familiar objects like keys or hand-embroidered beads can trigger memories.

16. Taste fond memories. Smells and tastes can elicit emotions and memories. Your mom’s famous chocolate cake could bring back birthday memories, or a sip of instant coffee could recall quiet, early mornings at home.

17. Feel diverse textures. Experiencing different textures can be a fulfilling dementia activity that provides sensory stimulation and memory cues. Consider options that align with their interests, such as soft animal fur for pet lovers or damp soil and leaves for seniors who enjoyed gardening. Create an activity around this by making a bag of varied textures to be sorted by touch.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Technology-Based Dementia Activities for Seniors

Embracing technology can significantly enrich the range of home-based activities for seniors with dementia, offering stimulating, engaging, and mentally nourishing experiences. Ultimately, these endeavors are meant to cultivate joy, stimulate memories, and nurture emotional tranquility within the familiar confines of home, making each moment meaningful for seniors with dementia.

Here are some innovative ways technology can facilitate engaging and fun activities for dementia activities at home.

18. Discover nature and art through live cams. A wealth of global attractions, from zoos and nature preserves to museums, offer live internet streams. Whether your loved one has a fondness for animals or an appreciation for art, they can experience ever-changing visual stimulation without leaving the comfort of home.

19. Venture globally with Google Earth. Google Earth’s user-uploaded photos offer a virtual exploration experience like no other. Whether your loved one cherishes memories of their childhood hometown or dreams of the Sahara Desert, Google Earth can offer them a gateway to explore these places.

20. Create a family video tablet for dementia patients at home. Video calls and chats can keep families connected, and technology can offer comfort even when a conversation isn’t possible. Creating a collection of videos featuring family members, beloved pets, and memorable moments on a tablet can be an ideal activity for dementia patients at home. This personalized tablet can provide solace during restless times or assist with sleep. If a tablet is too complex, consider transferring these precious videos onto a classic videotape or DVD.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Tips for Planning Activities for Seniors With Dementia

When you’re choosing activities for seniors with dementia, it’s important to consider their current cognitive abilities, their interests, and the progression of their condition. Activities should ideally be simple, enjoyable, and familiar to reduce frustration and anxiety.


Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Activities for Mild (Early-Stage) Dementia

In the early stages, individuals retain much of their independence and their cognitive abilities, though they may have trouble remembering recent events or managing complex tasks.

Good activities for this stage might include:

  • Reading books
  • Solving a crossword or other puzzles
  • Gardening
  • Cooking or baking
  • Attending social events

Activities can also include learning new, simple skills, as this stage of dementia is often marked by a desire to continue personal growth and development.


Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Activities for Moderate (Middle-Stage) Dementia

As dementia progresses into the middle stage, individuals may begin to have difficulty recognizing familiar people and places, and they may struggle with tasks that require multiple steps.

Activities should be simplified and broken down into single steps during this stage. Simple tasks, creative arts, and craft activities like these may be suitable:

  • Painting or making a scrapbook
  • Singing old songs or listening to their favorite artists
  • Going on short walks
  • Doing simple chores
  • Assisted cooking


Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Activities for Severe (Late-Stage) Dementia

In the late stages of dementia, individuals often have significant memory loss and may have difficulty communicating or recognizing loved ones. However, they can still benefit from sensory and emotional experiences.

Simple tactile activities like the following can be comforting and soothing for individuals with late-stage dementia:

  • Handling a soft blanket
  • Squishing clay
  • Listening to familiar music
  • Looking at family photos
  • Receiving gentle massages with a favorite lotion
  • Enjoying the outdoors in a safe and comfortable manner

Remember that everyone is unique, and the progression of dementia varies significantly among individuals. Always tailor activities to the person’s individual abilities and interests. The goal is not to challenge them with difficult tasks but to provide comfort, stimulate their senses, and create opportunities for meaningful engagement.

Image Credit: Obencem / istockphoto.

Dementia Care Activities in Memory Care

If it’s becoming difficult to care for your loved one with dementia at home, you may want to consider memory care.

However, if you’re not sure whether memory care communities will be able to fulfill and engage your loved one, here’s some internal data on how many communities within A Place for Mom’s network incorporate different types of activities:[01]

  • Over 55% of memory care communities offer cooking activities, and about 70% offer art activities to engage residents in unique ways.
  • Over 55% of communities offer reminiscence programs dedicated to helping seniors recall cherished memories.
  • Over 52% of communities offer sensory-based programs to engage residents with dementia through sound, touch, scent, taste, and sight.
  • Over 78% of communities offer musical activities like karaoke and live musical performances to soothe common dementia symptoms.
  • Over 70% of communities offer an enclosed courtyard to help residents enjoy the outdoors in a safe manner.

If you’re not quite ready to move your loved one but still want help around the home, you can look into home care.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Pornpak Khunatorn / istockphoto.

More from MediaFeed

How to Treat Hair Loss for Older Women

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.

Image Credit: Cunaplus_M.Faba/istockphoto.