Dementia-Friendly Hobbies to Nurture the Mind and Body

5 Hobby Ideas for Seniors With Dementia


Retirement often marks the pinnacle of a lifelong career, and for many seniors, it means an end to the daily 9-to-5 routine. While the thought of not having to work anymore can be liberating, it can also leave individuals, especially those living with dementia, feeling at a loss for how to fill their newfound free hours.

Unfortunately, your senior loved one might encounter plenty of other snags while living with this condition. Boredom can lead to a sense of purposelessness and even depression, while loneliness can contribute to feelings of isolation and a decline in overall mental and physical health. This is why finding meaningful activities or dementia-friendly hobbies becomes all the more important.

If you are a caregiver looking for ways to engage their loved one, we have compiled a list of our top 5 dementia-friendly hobbies.

1. Painting

As the disease progresses, individuals with dementia find it more challenging to communicate and express their thoughts and feelings clearly. Painting can be an alternative means of expression – through colors, strokes, and shapes, your senior loved one can convey emotions, memories, and thoughts that may otherwise be difficult to express. In addition, artistic activities like painting can help your loved one maintain their cognitive skills and enhance their problem-solving abilities.

If you’re considering introducing painting as a hobby for your senior loved one with dementia it’s important to create a designated area for painting that is well-lit, comfortable, and free from distractions. Ensure all necessary art supplies, including paints, brushes, canvases, and water cups, are readily available.

2. Woodworking

Woodworking is a timeless craft that allows your senior loved one to create functional and beautiful items from raw materials. Though individuals with dementia may have short-term memory impairment, making wooden crafts is a dementia-friendly hobby that can provide sensory stimulation.

Whether it’s creating a simple birdhouse, a picture frame, or a decorative shelf, woodworking allows your loved one to feel the grain, the coolness and the scent of freshly cut wood as they rub their hands over the surface.

Moreover, wooden crafts offer an outlet for creative expression. Your loved one can personalize their creations by choosing their own projects and wood types and even experimenting with paint or stain finishes.

However, impaired vision, difficulty standing, and loss of strength and balance can make woodworking challenging, and safety considerations are paramount here. These crafts require certain adjustments to meet the individual’s needs, such as keeping the workspace well-ventilated and well-lit, being in a seated position, using safety goggles and hearing protection (if needed), and keeping sharp tools out of reach.

In addition, we recommend having a caregiver present who can assist with tasks that require physical strength and coordination, such as hammering nails or using tools like drills.

3. Gardening

Whether it’s nurturing plants in a backyard garden, tending to indoor houseplants, or creating a small herb garden on a windowsill, gardening can provide a sense of purpose, connection to nature, and cognitive stimulation.

Feeling the soil, smelling the flowers, and hearing the birds chirping can provide a sensory-rich experience that brings comfort and familiarity. Being outdoors in the garden also offers exposure to natural light, which can boost mood and regulate sleep.

In addition, gardening is a hobby that requires physical movement (such as digging, weeding, watering, and planting). This can promote mobility and help your loved one maintain strength and flexibility.

4. Volunteering

Volunteering is a fulfilling and meaningful dementia-friendly hobby that not only provides a sense of purpose but also fosters social connections and helps them connect to their community. Volunteer activities often require interacting with fellow volunteers and the people you are helping, which can help your loved one combat feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression.

Moreover, many volunteer roles require seniors to use their cognitive skills. Whether it’s organizing events, assisting with paperwork, or participating in group activities, volunteering can help keep the mind active and engaged.

Choose a volunteer role that aligns with your loved one’s interests, skills, and abilities. For example, you may consider opportunities that involve familiar activities or tasks they enjoy, such as reading to children at a local library, sorting donations at a food bank, or participating in community art projects.

5. Cooking

For seniors living with dementia, cooking offers a multisensory experience that can be both enjoyable and therapeutic. The aroma of simmering dishes, the sizzle of ingredients in a pan, the vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables, the textures of various ingredients – all these sensory experiences can trigger memories and create a comforting and familiar atmosphere.

Cooking also allows your loved one to maintain a sense of independence and control over their life. At Arbor Trace retirement community, we take great care in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for our residents. We offer a variety of simple and familiar recipes, including family favorites, for our residents to choose from.

Additionally, our community frequently plans baking activities and encourages residents to actively participate in the kitchen under the skilled supervision of our head chef. This way, residents not only help prepare their own meals but also have the freedom to choose what they eat.

For those who prefer a family-oriented cooking experience, consider involving your loved one in family cooking workshops or have them help prepare a meal at a loved one’s home. These activities can be a wonderful opportunity for family bonding. Depending on their cognitive ability, they may need some supervision and assistance, especially when using sharp utensils, stovetops, or ovens.

At Arbor Trace memory care community in Ontario, Canada we are dedicated to enhancing the lives of our residents by providing access to a wide range of recreational events, activities, and programs that cater to their unique needs and preferences. From arts and crafts to music therapy, fitness classes, and cognitive games, our residents have numerous opportunities to stimulate both their mind and body.

Call us today to schedule a tour of the Arbor Trace dementia care facility and learn more about our commitment to providing dementia-friendly hobbies that improve our residents’ well-being.

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