Activity ideas during coronavirus for people with dementia

Keeping active and purposeful when staying at home will help fight off boredom and frustration. Here are some activities you can try at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Online and digital activities

Technology such as smartphones, laptops, tablets and games consoles offer a variety of ways to pass the time and keep engaged and stimulated. Some are for everyone and some are specially designed for people living with dementia.  

Virtual assistant devices (for example Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant) can be useful and provide entertainment and information. See our information (for people living with dementia) on assistive technology for more details on this. 

If listening to music is for you, BBC Music Memories and m4d Radio can help people with dementia reconnect with their most powerful memories. The site also has BBC Memory Radio and these are also available on BBC Sounds – just search for Memory Radio. 

You could make a playlist of favourite songs and music. Playlist for Life has information about music and dementia, and advice about how and when to listen to it.  If you already attend one of our Singing for the Brain groups, find out more about our virtual sessions, adapted for people in their own homes.  

Many broadcasters and arts institutions are making their media free or offering a range of things to watch and listen to. For example, the BBC has increased the content available on iPlayer.

You can also try Spotify or YouTube. YouTube has a karaoke feature or you can watch clips about specific decades, film stars or sports.  It is also streaming (showing) free performances from the National Theatre and some Lloyd Webber musicals. These are available for set time periods. You can watch YouTube on any device with online access or as an app on some TVs. 

Many people with dementia will enjoy reminiscence and life story work in some way. At My House of Memories you can create a ‘memory tree’ with objects, photos and videos. You could also visit the BBC Reminiscence Archive or British Film Institute (BFI) archive, which can help to spark favourite memories. Talk to the person about what they recall and enjoy. 

Researching a family tree can be rewarding, and you can share it online with older children or grandchildren. Perhaps you can use this time to record the person talking about their life history using a phone or tablet. As with all reminiscence, be mindful of sad memories that the person may not want to discuss.  

You can also use a tablet or mobile device to download creative and activity apps designed for people with dementia. AcToDementia is a useful independent website. Or search for: 

  • clevermind – has speech recognition, large buttons and fonts, games and quizzes 
  • Lumosity – has activities and games 
  • MindMate – has a TV and music section, games and a life story section 
  • TheColor – do colouring online and save, print or email it to friends and family 
  • Pocket Pond – feed and catch fish, and customise nature effects.  

Some people will enjoy motion-based gaming systems (including Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect) to provide enjoyable online group activities.

If you want people to read your dementia story, consider writing a blog. Visit the Alzheimer’s Society blog writing page for more.  

If the person enjoys audio books, Amazon are offering free audio books through Audible for a limited time.

Activities in and around the home

While the person is indoors, encourage them to stay active. They may be able to help with preparing food, cooking and other household tasks. Also consider different forms of exercise – see our ideas for people with dementia

Sport England has developed further suggestions for how to remain active while people are staying at home because of coronavirus. They are also broadcasting a daily 10 minute activity session (10 today) on BBC Radio 5 Live, which is designed for older adults. You can also listen to this online too.

If you’re new to dancing and interested in learning, The Royal Academy of Dance has created Silver Swans – a beginner’s dance class you can do online. Remember that if you are making room or clearing an area for exercising or dancing, beware of trip hazards.  

Love to Move is a seated gymnastics programme for people living with dementia. You can download the pack to try activities at home.

You can still use your garden if you have one – you could plant some seeds (indoors or out) and look forward to seeing them grow.

Even with the new rules, anyone can go outdoors to exercise – so long as they stay away from people not in their household. So, go for a walk together if you can or even something more active. Fresh air will help lift your spirits.

When you’re looking at other activities, try to make sure the person has activities based on their interests and preferences. Ideas include: 

  • reading
  • browsing magazines 
  • doing jigsaws 
  • listening to music 
  • going online or using apps
  • knitting 
  • enjoying their favourite TV/radio programmes or films on DVD. 

Puzzles and games that keep the mind active and engaged can be helpful, and a good distraction from the news. Our online shop has a variety of products like this specifically for people with dementia. A routine to do these at set times can help the time pass. 

You can also subscribe to Dementia together, the Society’s magazine packed with news, articles and features on all aspects of living with dementia. It comes out as six print issues each year and you can listen to articles via our podcast, too.

If the person you care for likes to read but struggles with print, switch to audio versions of books or magazines. 

Whatever activity you choose to do, these tips might help.

Tips for starting new activities

  • Put out the things you need before starting an activity, for example, tools for gardening or ingredients for cooking. The person with dementia might like to help you with this. 
  • Reduce distractions such as background noise.  
  • Give yourself time and take things at a slower pace if you need to. And be reassuring if the person finds things difficult. 
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