Activity ideas for people with dementia
If you've recently been diagnosed with dementia, there are many ways to keep active and involved. Here are some dementia-friendly activities you can do at home, in the community, and through Alzheimer's Society.
Activity ideas for people with dementia at home
You can get involved in a number of routine and leisure activities in and around the home. These are just a few ideas. Some will be familiar and there may be others that you have not tried before.
Cooking, household tasks and gardening
You can keep – or start – cooking, as long as it is safe for you. If it becomes difficult, there are some small changes that can make things easier.
For example, you can:
- ask someone to help you in the kitchen
- try recipes that have fewer steps or ingredients
- use pre-prepared ingredients such as ready-made
- sauces or chopped vegetables.
Many jobs around the home also provide a good form of gentle exercise and can help you to keep physically active. These include:
- doing housework – for example, washing up, folding clothes or dusting
- gardening – for example, gently weeding the garden, maintaining houseplants, or growing herbs or flowers in window boxes.
You can ask someone to do these tasks with you if this makes them more enjoyable or easier.
Tip: It can be helpful to put out the things you need before starting a task so that you have a visual prompt – for example, tools for gardening or ingredients for cooking.
Hobbies and pastimes
There are many creative activities and crafts that you can still enjoy or try out at home. These include:
- playing an instrument
Continuing any hobbies and interests like this can help you to maintain your skills and self-confidence after your diagnosis.
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 and can improve your mental wellbeing. You can find a qualified music therapist in your area on the British Association for Music Therapy website.
Any activity that exercises your mind is also good for you. For example, you might enjoy:
- board games
- crossword puzzles
- online games or apps.
If games and puzzles get difficult, you can try games made specifically for people with dementia, such as jigsaws with larger pieces, and a range of touchscreen apps. You can find activities and games on our shop or see useful organisations for more information.
If you like to read but are finding it difficult, you can try switching to audio versions of books, newspapers and magazines. A friend or family member might also be able to help, and you might also find a local poetry or reading group where members read aloud.
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.
More ways to stay active and involved at home
Keeping in touch with people using technology
Coronavirus made it more difficult to visit friends and family in person. However, there are many ways to keep in touch with people virtually from your home.
Devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones offer many great ways to communicate with other people.
You can use them to:
- send emails and different types of instant messages (such as text, video, pictures and sound clips)
- make video calls, such as on Skype and Zoom
- share and connect with people on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
- join online communities, such as Talking Point
- play online games with others.
Touchscreen technology – such as tablets and smartphones – can be easier to use than desktop computers. If you’re not sure about how to use these devices, a friend or family member might be able to help you.
My father lives with me and he can Skype my sister. The extra visual dimension adds a lot for him.’
- Daughter of a person living with dementia
Watching videos, films and TV shows, or listening to music or podcasts, can be enjoyable ways to explore your personal interests. They can also help you to remember things that you have enjoyed in the past. For example, you can:
- watch films or television shows – old and new
- listen to your favourite songs or find new ones
- find video clips on YouTube of places that you have visited or hobbies you enjoy
- find podcasts about subjects, places and pastimes that you like
- read short stories and articles that interest you.
Smart devices and virtual assistants
Smart devices and virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple Siri can also help you to stay active and involved at home.
You can use your voice to give commands and ask questions. For example, you can tell them to:
- play music or a particular radio station
- check the weather or the news
- remind you to take medication or go to an appointment.
If you have or would like a device but are not sure how to set it up, try asking a friend or family member to help you.
Activity ideas for people with dementia outside the home
Being outside can benefit your health in many ways, including lowering stress, increasing your mood and improving your overall wellbeing.
Outside activities range from walking in nature to shopping or attending community events. It’s important to choose what you enjoy and there is lots of support available to help you to do this.
You may feel less confident about going out after your diagnosis. However, there are things that can help you feel prepared and supported. For example:
- Ask a family member or friend to go with you.
- Take time to think about anything you need to do beforehand or prepare – for example do you need to book ticket in advance, will you need to take food or drink with you, and is there anything you need to bring from home to help you feel safe and comfortable?
- Plan how you’ll get to and from your destination – it can be useful to make a note of bus routes and train times, as well as stations where you will need to get on or off public transport. If you are driving, try to find out where you can park.
- Find out what services are available at the destination – for example, whether they have seating, a café or toilets.
- Consider what time of day to go out – you might find quieter(off-peak) times are more comfortable for you to travel and visit places.
- Find out what support is available and make a note of any phone numbers you might need.
- It may be helpful to look up a map or images of the venue online first so that you are familiar with the space.
- Use helpcards – these are small cards that show people that you have some difficulties and how they can help you. You can also record emergency contact details on them. You can order our helpcards online or by calling 0300 303 5933.
You could also speak with your GP about ‘social prescribing’. This is a way for health professionals to refer people to community-based support and activities.
Ideas for getting out and about
There are many fun ways to spend a day out and about. These include going to:
- the shops
- cinemas and theatres
- museums and concert halls
- public gardens
- sports events
- National Trust venues
- restaurants, cafes and pubs
- see family or friends.
It may also be helpful to know that lots of places are becoming ‘dementia friendly’. This means that their staff and volunteers have had dementia awareness training so they should be more understanding and supportive.
Dementia friendly venues may also be designed in a way that makes it easier for people with dementia to attend and use them, for example by using signs and having a clear layout.
Some of these venues organise events or activities specifically for people living with dementia, such as theatre performances or film screenings, and exhibitions or tours.
Heather, who has metabolic dementia, gives advice on how to plan a dementia-friendly group outing.
Groups, communities and clubs
A lot of places run activity groups that bring people with dementia together. Popular groups can include singing (for example, Singing for the Brain), making music, or art classes. Other activities include drama, dance, reading, writing or poetry.
It’s important to find something that has meaning for you and that you enjoy. This could be a faith or community group, rather than creative activity. If you already attend a group like this, a diagnosis of dementia does not mean you’ll have to stop. Consider speaking with the group about any adjustments they could make to help you if you feel comfortable doing this.
You may not want to get involved in a group activity. But if you do, a group can create a sense of togetherness and belonging.
You can find ideas for activities through some of the organisations listed in ‘Keeping active and involved – useful organisations’.
To find out what is happening in your area, search online or call Alzheimer’s Society on 0333 150 3456, or get in touch with your local library, community centre, or place of worship.
Travelling and taking a break
Travelling and going on holiday can be a great way to relax, have fun and have new experiences. It is still possible to travel and go on holiday after a diagnosis of dementia. However, it’s important to plan ahead.
When choosing where to go, you may find it easier to go to familiar places. Think about all aspects of the trip and how easy or difficult you will find them. For example, long-distance travel can be very tiring.
Before you travel, you should make sure you are insured against any problems that may arise, such as sickness or lost items. Your travel insurance policy will also need to cover any medical conditions that you have – this includes dementia.
It is possible to travel alone but, as with many activities, it is easier if you have someone with you. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you:
- take the time to prepare
- keep lists – for instance, things to pack
- write down travel and accommodation details, such as your
- flight times or hotel address
- bring any documents you need, for example insurance
- documents, your passport, and any visas.
If you are travelling alone, also make sure you:
- let a family member or close friend know the details of where you are going. You could arrange to ‘check in’ with them when to get to key places such as stations, hotels or places of interest
- carry a list of emergency contact phone numbers in case you need advice or support in a hurry.
Sports, leisure and exercise
Exercise is great for your physical and emotional wellbeing. You may find it easier, safer or more fun to do it with other people rather than alone.
Physical activity includes walking, cycling, swimming, dancing or gentle exercise (such as tai chi or yoga). Or you could do sports such as golf, football, tennis, basketball or cricket.
Ask at your local leisure centre about classes that might be right for you. Many centres run specific sessions for older people or those with dementia. This includes adapted activities such as walking football.
If you’ve not exercised much before and want to start, 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. For more information see our physical activity and exercise webpages.
‘We have a tandem I bought as we’re both members of a local cycling club... it now means my wife can get out and ride along with them.’
- Husband of a person living with dementia
Getting involved through Alzheimer's Society
Alzheimer’s Society offers many opportunities for you to keep active and involved. This includes volunteering your time in different ways.
These activities can give you the chance to meet other people, share your experiences, learn new skills and make a difference.
Here are some examples of what you can do.
Have your say with Dementia Voice
Dementia Voice is our programme for including people with dementia in our work. You can review our publications, help us recruit staff, give your feedback on our services, and much more.
Make your community more dementia friendly
Join or create a local community group to raise awareness of dementia and encourage more people, groups and organisations to support people with dementia better. To find out more email dem[email protected]
Take part in research
Register with Join Dementia Research to be part of a local dementia study – for example, testing a new dementia service or treatment. You can sign up online or by calling Alzheimer’s Society on 0333 150 3456.
Stay connected with our magazine
Keep in touch by reading Dementia together magazine in print or online, or listening to the CD version or podcast. Here you’ll find real-life stories from people affected by dementia, activity ideas and tips for living well.
Get involved in fundraising events
Contact your local fundraising team to find out what’s happening in your area. You can take part or help out at a range of events from marathons and memory walks to carol concerts and quizzes.
How to be more physically active
If you or a loved one has dementia, physical activity can improve your quality of life. Find out how to stay active at any stage of dementia.
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