Creative Activities to Improve Memory in Elderly with Dementia

For those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, activities offer stimulation for cognition, social interaction, and relaxation. From simple, fun games to physical exercise, there’s no shortage of activities out there. However, it can be tough to find activities suited for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

When your loved one is facing dementia, you’ll want to keep them involved and active but may have a difficult time finding the right activities for their current state. You don’t want to add on any unnecessary stress or confusion, and that’s understandable. Luckily, we have gathered a list of activities meant to stimulate the mind and body that are perfect for loved ones with various forms of dementia. Whether your loved one is at home or in a memory care community, we have you covered. 

Some Memory Care Tips to Get Started 

Before we dive into the list of activity ideas and creative ways to engage with your loved one, let’s discuss some groundwork and create a clearer path towards success by individualizing your efforts. 

Make the Activities Relatable

Your loved one has lived a life filled with interests, hobbies, and passions. Activities to help engage and stimulate memory need to be relatable and interesting to them. For example, if they love gardening or being in nature, perhaps you could center some activities around their love for flora or simply spend time outdoors.  

Start Small 

Starting small can help to avoid overstimulating their memory. Be strategic about where and what you are doing and try to avoid environments that may introduce confusion. This includes:

  • Overcrowded places
  • Noisy locations 
  • High-traffic or motion-filled areas 

You also don’t want to choose activities that are too difficult from the start. The goal is not to discourage them from trying, but to engage them in a helpful and natural way. There are, however, activities that can be too small. You don’t want to bore them or insult their intelligence with activities that you know they won’t find interesting or enjoyable. It’s all about finding that “Goldilocks” zone. 

Work within Daily Living 

Activities or memory exercises don’t always have to be planned. In fact, everyday life skills can be relearned or practiced on a daily basis. Encourage your loved one to help choose their outfit, water the plants, or help set the table. These are all activities that help restimulate memory and can even help form a deeper bond with you. Plus, consistent routines offer a wide range of cognitive benefits. 

Know their State and Stage 

As various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease progress, you may have to adjust the memory activities accordingly. In the early stages, still going to their favorite mall, restaurant, park, or theater is encouraged. 

As long as it’s still comfortable and doesn’t introduce new stressors to them, these outings can help remind your loved one of certain habits or customs. 

Activities for Those With Dementia or Alzheimer’s 

4 Ideas to Stay Active

Staying active and exercising offers some significant advantages for those living with dementia. Not only does it provide neuroprotective benefits to help slow cognitive decline, but it reduces future hospitalizations by strengthening the body. 

  1. Play their favorite music and dance. Not only will this provide some exercise for your loved ones, but they’ll also get the added music therapy of hearing their favorite songs. 
  1. Low-intensity yoga is a restorative exercise that improves overall flexibility and balance. Plus, it’s a great option for those with limited mobility lower-body injuries. 
  1. Chair exercises are another fantastic activity for those with limited mobility. Play a small game of catch with small balls or pom-poms or bring the dancing idea to their seat by having them move their arms, head, and shoulders to their favorite music. 
  1. Go on a walk if your loved one is active and mobile. A stroll around their community or a scenic park can help combine the therapeutic properties of the outdoors with the cognitive benefits of exercise. 

3 Creative Games & Activities to Help Memory

  1. Listening to music isn’t always the first activity that comes to mind when we think about preserving memory. But, there’s a reason why you still remember the alphabet song or a popular song from twenty years ago — it works. 
  1. Solve a puzzle together. These are mental exercises that can be both challenging and relaxing. Puzzles stimulate both the logical left side of the brain and the creative right side of the brain. 
  1. Card games are always a fan favorite. Games that include keeping score can also have the added benefit of demonstrating memorization. Choose games you have played in the past, and don’t be afraid to walk through the rules before playing. 

4 Around the Home Activities 

Everyday chores or hobbies that your loved one used to partake in can also be turned into activities. Anything from gardening work to sorting silverware, it’s all about being creative and basing the activities around their interests. 

  1. Prepare a meal with your loved one. Whether it’s lunch, dinner, or baking a dessert — choose their favorite and work with them to craft their beloved dish. Let them handle some safe food prep steps to empower self-esteem and self-reliance. 
  1. Make a memory bag for a friend, relative, or even themselves! Work together to fill the container with things they find familiar about themselves — or perhaps a child or grandchild. Use anything from soaps and perfumes to snacks and beverages. Try to include additions tied to the senses — like smell or taste.  
  1. Work on the garden together by having them take care of their own plants. Let them water or spread some seeds or pick out a new addition to the garden. 
  1. Sort out items together that they’re interested in. Whether it’s silverware, coins, hardware — whatever piques their interest. Stimulate their memory by bringing them back to their hobbies. 

Get Creative With Memory Care 

Helping your loved one’s memory can be a creative and enjoyable experience. You can take advantage of these tips and activities during most stages of dementia. Remember to keep their interests in mind and develop activities that are both appropriate and fun for them. 

Your loved one may benefit from a memory care community where team members work daily to help them overcome cognitive challenges.