8 Creative Activities to Help People Living with Dementia

8 Creative Activities to Help People Living with Dementia

By Bianca Ansbro-Elliott on, October 16, 2023


Living with dementia doesn't mean putting an end to that creative side that provides so many joyful moments. Staying creative is fun, and indulging in creative activities is a therapeutic way to keep the mind engaged, allowing for increased pleasure, expression, and cognitive stimulation. Creativity can be a profound tool for people living with dementia, allowing individuals to connect with themselves and their surroundings in rejuvenating and often familiar ways.

For caregivers and loved ones, finding the right activities is vital to ensure that the people with dementia you love maintain a good quality of life.

In this article, we will explore some of the most effective and enjoyable creative activities tailored for people living with dementia.

Why are creative activities good for people with dementia?

Creative activities offer more than just a way to pass the time. They provide numerous therapeutic benefits for individuals living with dementia. Creativity for people living with dementia can be a total game-changer, allowing for moments of clarity and connection.

Here are some of the benefits of getting creative:

  • Cognitive Stimulation: These activities can enhance brain function and memory recall, encouraging the mind to stay active and engaged.
  • Self-expression: Creative outlets provide a platform for individuals to communicate feelings and emotions, sometimes when words might fail them.
  • Happiness: Engaging in creative endeavours can trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural mood boosters, improving mental health.
  • Improved Motor Skills: Painting or crafting can refine fine motor skills, promoting dexterity and coordination.
  • Bonding and Socialisation: Shared creative activities with others can foster connections, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness that can come with memory loss.
  • Pride: Completing a task, no matter how small, can instil a sense of accomplishment and purpose, boosting self-esteem.

What creative arts and expressive activities are good for people with dementia?

Embracing the following activities can pave the way for a richer, more fulfilling experience for those living with dementia, emphasising capabilities over challenges.

1. Painting

Painting is a great activity for self-expression for seniors with dementia. Encourage your loved ones to experiment with various art materials, such as watercolours, coloured pencils, or even finger paints. Painting activities for elderly adults and seniors can be a gateway to rediscovering themselves, communicating emotions, and celebrating the sheer joy of creation.

The sensory experience of choosing colours, deciding on patterns, and coordinating hand movements to translate onto canvas supports cognitive skills, boosts concentration, and improves hand-eye coordination. Plus, the simple act of creating art can lead to pride and a lot of happiness.

Why not try out our specially-developed painting for dementia activity, Paint A Masterpiece activity here, or explore our mess-free Aquapaint kits?

Women with dementia painting

2. Listen to Music and Move

How do you feel when you hear your favourite music?! Good, right!? Music is universal and timeless, a language that resonates deeply. Music has the power to connect us to our past, evoke emotions, and even trigger memories. Delve deeper into the therapeutic benefits of music for dementia here.

Grab a speaker and find some artists you know your loved one may like, singing and dancing along to old favourite songs can be a delightful experience! You can also try introducing musical instruments like tambourines or maracas for a more hands-on experience.

Try out our Sing Your Heart Out activity here or play Name That Tune.

For radio lovers, why not consider the Relish DAB Radio and Music Player - a dementia-friendly radio that’s easy and intuitive to use.

Senior couple with dementia dancing and listening to music

3. Gardening

Nature has a soothing effect on all our senses. Gardening offers a chance to connect with nature, work on fine motor skills, and enjoy the tangible results of nurturing plants. Even if it's just putting a few flowers or herbs, the sensory experience of soil and scents can be rejuvenating. If you're not into gardening, try making flower arrangements.

Why not try one of our dementia-friendly gardening activities:

Seed Planting - A good activity for springtime! Mini Garden Pots - Proudly create your own mini garden pot. Flower Arranging - Arrange a beautiful bunch of flowers.

Senior man with dementia gardening

4. Memory Scrapbooking

Creating a memory scrapbook is a rewarding activity. It provides a unique opportunity to reminisce, celebrate important life events, and strengthen bonds between caregivers and those with dementia. Use photos, mementoes, and written notes to make this personal journey extra special.

Check out some of our creative activities ideal for jogging happy past memories:

Memories Tree - Create a lovely display of your past memories. Christmas Tree of Memories - Mount your favourite festive photos onto a paper tree! Heart Full of Memories - Create a heart montage of your most cherished moments.

Old photographs in a pile

You can read more about the benefits of reminiscence therapy for dementia here.

5. Arts and Crafts

Crafting is a beautiful blend of patience, precision, and artistry. Activities such as knitting, beadwork, creating simple greeting cards or crafting with modelling clay have some wonderful benefits for people living with dementia, including

  • Promotes calm whilst being productive
  • Helps improve concentration
  • Helps improve hand-eye coordination
  • Allows individuals to produce something beautiful to share or cherish
  • Offers a sensory-rich experience that can be therapeutic and fulfilling
  • Helps individuals to immerse themselves in the experience, shedding external distractions

Art projects celebrate the joy of creation, allowing seniors living with dementia to express themselves, relish their abilities, and connect with the world around them in a uniquely artistic manner.

Explore some of our easy crafts for seniors with dementia, such as:

A Shell of a Frame - Decorating a picture frame with shells collected from the beach. Flags of the World - Paint different flags of the world in a group. Button Art - Create an artistic arrangement using old buttons of all shapes and sizes.

You may also be interested in adult colouring books specifically designed for people with dementia.

Grandmother and granddaughter knitting - a good craft activity for seniors and older adults with dementia

6. Sensory Stimulation

Sensory activities offer an immersive experience that can awaken the senses in many ways. Utilising different textures, smells, and objects can be a fantastic way to stimulate the senses. From soft fabrics to aromatic herbs, exploring the senses can be both calming and cognitively engaging.

The touch of different textured materials and familiar smells can evoke different sensations and memories, transporting individuals to moments from their past or grounding them in the present.

We’ve created some dementia-friendly sensory activities you might like to try:

Sense & Feel The Fabrics - Touching different materials that are reminiscent of the past. Lavender Pillows - Create a lavender-filled pillow to help aid soothing sleep. Rummage and Reminisce - Curate a collection of familiar items and chat about what you see. Walk Back Through Time with Scents - Evoke powerful memories by smelling different smells.

You may also be interested in trying out our dementia-friendly sensory toys Tactile Turn and Scent and Sound kits.

Tactile Turn sensory toy for dementia

7. Puzzle Games & Quizzes

For individuals living with dementia, puzzles and quizzes serve as not just a recreational pastime but also a powerful cognitive tool that can rekindle the joy of challenge and the satisfaction of resolution.

Simple puzzles can be brain stimulators, and using them helps improve attention, concentration, and problem-solving. By connecting pieces or matching items, the brain forms neural pathways that can slow cognitive decline and enhance mental agility.

While quizzes are good for those with a competitive streak! They are fun activities to get grey matter working, as well as tap into conversation topics.

Here are some of our puzzles and quizzes you may enjoy:

70's Film Titles Quiz - Complete the title of these popular films from the 70s! Quiz - All begins with R - Use the prompts to solve the answer to the question. Seaside Nostalgia Jigsaw- Take a trip to the seaside with this best-selling puzzle.

Puzzles are a great creative activity for people with dementia.

8. Storytelling & Reading

For individuals living with dementia, the act of storytelling and being read to is a bridge to the past, connects to the present, and invites imagination.

Encouraging those living with dementia to recount their tales, such as personal narratives, like childhood memories, tales of young love, or adventures from their teens, can offer them a chance to relive cherished moments, affirm their identity, and share their legacy.

Reading aloud captivates attention, stimulates the imagination, and transports the listener to different worlds. Storytelling and reading can be made interactive by discussing the stories, asking open-ended questions, or even building upon tales through collaborative imagination.

Let's get this show on the road - Storyboard your very own short film! Read to Me: Newspapers & Magazines - Read your loved ones favourite publications. What’s in a Name? - Think of words that describe you that begin with the letters of your name

A man is reading an article on his tablet to his wife with dementia

Spark Joy & Deepen Connection with Creative Activities

Engaging in creative activities is more than just about passing the time. It's about enhancing the quality of life, sparking joy, and creating moments of connection. For people living with dementia, creative activities help with personal expression, reminiscence, and relaxation.

For more activity ideas for seniors with dementia, explore Relish’s extensive activity bank. All of our activities are labelled with the stage of dementia they are suitable for, so you can be sure you’re choosing an appropriate activity for your loved one’s current abilities. Simply enter your email for full access to all of our free printable resources. We hope you enjoy them!

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