We all know that connecting with nature can do the soul some good—in fact, getting outside in nature can be what one needs to recharge and detach from the everyday hustle and bustle. And it’s no different for people living with dementia — spending time outside is a great way to stimulate and engage a person physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
Here are the top 5 summertime activities that can be enjoyed outside in nature by a person living with dementia. (Note that appropriate accommodations may be necessary depending on any physical or cognitive limitations already present.):
- Exercise: There are hundreds of online videos demonstrating how to perform exercises, even with restrictions. Chair yoga has become very popular and there are many organisations that run chair yoga sessions and offer them for free for educators (Breathe for Change being one of them), and some specifically for caregivers hosted by libraries, memory cafes, or online programming providers like Eventbrite. The summertime is the perfect time to try some form of outdoor exercise, such as walking, swimming, restorative yoga, or martial arts, such as Tai chi or Qi gong.
- Nature Excursions: Most people (especially those living in temperate climates) love to take a car ride or go on a walk to take in the beauty surrounding them. If feasible, going on a nature walk is a great way to get some physical activity while also using the other senses to observe and absorb the sounds, scents, and textures of the environment. For example, leaf-peeping (foliage viewing or photography) is a popular activity to do in late summer/early autumn when the leaves on trees begin to change. You can even make it into a stimulating sensory activity for a person with dementia by talking about the idiosyncrasies of colours and textures on the trees that he/she/they see.
- Gardening: If the person or the care facility has a garden, it can be a great collaborative exercise to plant flowers, water the plants, harvest fruits and vegetables, or even fill a birdfeeder together. If the garden has yielded produce, it is a wonderful activity to wash the fruits and vegetables together and then try a taste. And if you want to make it into a fun game, have the person with dementia close their eyes, provide a small taste of a piece of fruit or vegetable, and see if he/she/they can guess what it is! (Make sure to be careful when providing food that needs to be swallowed by making it into small and easily chewable bites.)
- Outdoor Relaxation: Just sitting on a porch, deck or patio could be enough for looking around, watching the sunset, or just listening to the sounds of the wind [or raindrops, if it’s a gloomy day]. Have a chat with some company or sip some lemonade or iced tea. Or, if going outdoors is not feasible activity due to temperature or other factors, looking through a window can be just as enjoyable by pointing out the colours outside and/or identifying animals that may pass by.
- Animal Viewing & Appreciation: Going birdwatching to spot birds can be another relaxing activity for a person with dementia. And, if the person still possesses the fine motor skills or dexterity needed to leaf through a book, you can bring a Bird Guide along with you and try to identify the birds you see! Or, if you or the person living with dementia is more action-oriented, you can visit a nearby zoo or animal sanctuary. If a more passive activity is appropriate, you can just sit outside, noticing the sounds of the animals or watching them fly or flit by.
No matter what you do, it is very important for people living with dementia not to get too exhausted, overheated, or dehydrated. Many symptoms of dementia and other memory loss conditions can lead to forgetfulness when it comes to remembering to drink enough water. In addition, side effects from the medications used to treat these conditions can cause excessive thirst or dry mouth. Either way, it is important to remind or prompt everyone to drink often.
One great way to help people with dementia keep hydrated is Pattinson’s Jelly Drops - we love what this company has done by creating a sugar-free, vegan ‘sweet’ that is actually 95% water and makes hydrating more fun!
To view Relish’s digital catalog of engaging and enriching products for people living with dementia, visit Relish-life.com. You can also download our free app for families and caregivers for plenty of great activity ideas!