Activity ideas for people with dementia
Ideas and tips for people with dementia to keep active and involved, both at home and in the community.
There are many activities that you can get involved in, some of which you may have never tried before. The following may be useful in providing suitable activities that you can do indoors or outside.
Activity ideas at home
Cooking and household activities
Preparing and cooking food is an activity many of us do every day. You can continue – or start – doing this as long as it is safe for you. However, if the activity becomes too difficult, there are some small changes you can make. You could ask someone to help you in the kitchen, follow a simpler recipe, or use prepared sauces rather than making your own.
Other everyday household tasks like washing the dishes, folding clothes or dusting objects are also good ways of keeping active at home. Ask someone to do the task with you if it makes what you’re doing more enjoyable.
Puzzles and games
Any kind of pastime that keeps your mind active is beneficial and can also be a great way of spending time with other people. You could try doing a crossword puzzle, playing a board game or even an electronic game. If you start finding these options difficult, consider other options.
Touchscreen technology – including tablet computers or even mobile phones – has many advantages that can help you stay involved. They can be easier to use than desktop computers. You can also use touchscreen technology to interact with people around you. For example, on YouTube you can watch old videos or films from your past together, or listen to your favourite music.
Music and singing can be very powerful ways to relive memories, and music is also used as a form of therapy. Music therapy is enjoyable but offers much more than just entertainment. For more information on finding a qualified music therapist in your area (see our guide 'Health and social care professionals'.)
Other technologies like Skype – for communicating face-to-face with someone in another place using the internet – make it easier to keep in touch with family and friends who live far away. You can also try online games. They can be a good source of entertainment as well as a form of mental stimulation. For more details see 'Assistive technology – devices to help with everyday living.'
If you like to read but dementia is making this difficult, you can try switching to audio versions of books, newspapers and magazines. These will allow you to enjoy your favourite publications in a different way
Five online activity ideas for people living with dementia
Heather O’Neil is always looking for new craft and activity ideas for her mum, who has mixed dementia. As the condition progresses, she’s been using online tools to keep Mum active and happy.
Activity ideas in the community
There are many opportunities out in the community where you can find different activities and meet other people at the same time. This could be at a place of worship, an art gallery, museum, concert hall or theatre, a community group, leisure centre or at the local pub.
There are national drives towards making many of these places dementia-friendly, which means their staff and volunteers will be more understanding and have some knowledge about living with dementia.
Arts and culture
Many heritage sites and arts or cultural venues are becoming more dementia-friendly. This means that the venue should be more welcoming to people with dementia, ultimately making your visit more enjoyable. Being ‘dementia friendly’ could be something simple, like having clearer signs in the venue. Alternatively, staff and volunteers might have had dementia awareness training and so understand a little better what it’s like to live with dementia.
Some community venues organise events or activities which have been developed for and with people living with dementia. Events range from more relaxed theatre performances or film screenings to special access and exhibitions or tours.
A lot of places also now run creative activities which bring people with dementia together. The more popular groups often involve singing, making music or painting. Other activities include drama, dance, reading, writing or poetry.
In all these cases, the details of the event or activity are probably not the main point. What matters is finding something which has meaning for you and that you enjoy. Not everyone will want to get involved in a group activity. But for those who do, a group setting can create a sense of togetherness and belonging, helping you keep active and involved.
You might find ideas for activities through some of the organisations listed in ‘Other resources’ at the back of this booklet. To find out what is happening in your area, ask at your local Alzheimer’s Society, library or community centre. Your local Alzheimer’s Society will also run, or know about, day centres where you might be able to go for a mix of social and club activities.
Taking any form of exercise is good for your physical as well as emotional wellbeing. You may find it easier, safer, or more fun to take part in physical activities with other people rather than alone. This could be through walking, swimming, dancing or gentle exercise classes (eg tai chi or yoga).
Ask at your local leisure centre about sessions or classes that might be suitable for you. Many centres organise specific sessions for older people or those with dementia.
Other forms of exercise, such as gardening, chair aerobics or gentle stretching, can also be done in and around the home. For more information see 'Exercise and physical activity'.
If you’ve not exercised much before and are thinking of starting, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP or community nurse first. They can suggest ways for you to build up gradually and safely.
Travelling and going on holiday can bring a great sense of enjoyment. Living with dementia, you may find it easier to go to familiar places. When considering where to go, think carefully about the practicalities. Long-distance travel can be particularly tiring. As with many things, travelling is easier if you have someone with you. However, it’s not impossible if you do want to travel alone. Make sure you take the time to prepare thoroughly, make lists of things to pack, and write down details of your travel arrangements and any documents you need. For more information about travelling, see 'Travelling and going on holiday'.
Try to enjoy being in the moment and don’t worry about what might lie in store. Whatever activity you choose, the most important thing is that it means something to you and helps you to feel good.
More practical and emotional support near you
Products for people with dementia
There are specially designed products for people with dementia, like larger piece jigsaws and memory games.