11 Sensory Activities To Engage People With Dementia

Cormac Stanford

July 19, 2021

For people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, awareness and memory become compromised. However, the five senses allow us to process stimuli within our environment at any moment.

From sounds to visual images, tastes to scents, sensory activities can help start conversations, elicit interactions, and connect people with friends or family.

Stimulating Sensory Perception

Humans are constantly inundated with stimuli every second of the day. However, for an individual with dementia, the synapses in the brain are diminishing, and awareness dwindles.

Dementia eventually leads to memory loss, the inability to communicate, and even limitations in mobility. These events can have a debilitating effect on mood, self-esteem, and overall temperament or personality.

However, sensory activities can create a wonderful or meaningful interaction or shared experience. For example:

  • Receiving a light massage with a scented lotion or candle
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Taking an outdoor stroll during a warm day

Sensory stimulation activities are most successful when they involve a person’s prior interests, hobbies, or pastimes.

Why Are Sensory Activities Good For People With Dementia?

Sensory stimulation can bring joy, reduce anxiety and depression, and elicit engagement.

Data also suggests that sensory perception can:

  • Improve cognitive abilities
  • Contribute to improved daily function
  • Encourages socialisation
  • Yield more effort at communication
  • Provide better opportunities for increased concentration, focus, alertness and awareness.

As Abbeyfield puts it, “Reminiscing can sometimes be difficult for someone living with dementia as the ability to recollect memories is not as simple as it used to be. As our senses often play a huge part in the creation of memories, stimulating the senses can often help bring those memories back.”

Luckily, many sensory products can trigger positive memories and emotions while encouraging interaction. In the later stages of dementia, when symptoms are most severe, stimulating the senses can improve wellbeing and quality of life.

Sensory Activities For Dementia

Five different senses; many different sensory activities for people with dementia; with one fantastic outcome — stimulation!

There are many products on the market specifically for people living with dementia. However, here are some dementia sensory products that tailor to the different stages of dementia progression, as well as the five senses.

Sight Stimulation Activities

Sight may not be affected by dementia or other memory loss conditions. So games and activities that appeal to the eye and challenge the brain are ideal. Here are some of our top picks.

1. Magnetic Picture Boards

Magnetic Picture Board For Dementia

Magnetic picture boards are a relaxing way to create a familiar scene that can start a conversation and trigger happy memories.

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Suitable for mid-late stages of dementia.

2. Reminiscence Cards

Reminiscence Game For Dementia

Reminiscence cards provide the perfect opportunity or cue to sit, relax and tell joyful stories to reminisce and smile about. The evocative pictures help trigger memories of times gone by.

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Suitable for early-mid stages of dementia.

3. Snap Card Games

Snap Card Game For Dementia

Snap card games have illustrated cards with recognisable images in bold contrasting colours, meant for matching and expressing creativity.

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Suitable for mid-late stages of dementia.

Hearing Stimulation Activities

If the person with dementia is not experiencing severe hearing loss, there are some great musical products that can grab their attention. Moreover, they’ll soothe the ears and soul by recognising their old favourites.

4. Relish Radio

Dementia radio

The retro Relish Radio will bring the power of music to life for people with dementia by enabling them to play and listen to music unaided.

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Suitable for all stages of dementia.

Smell Stimulation Activities

Scintillating smells can entice a person with dementia, reminding them of a scent from a long-ago place or time. Paired with sound, this can jog the memory even further!

5. Scents & Sounds Sensory Box

Scents and sounds activity for dementia

Your loved one can relax and enjoy a journey down memory lane with a combination of sound and scent.

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Suitable for mid-late stages of dementia.

Touch Stimulation Activities

Keeping hands active and occupied is an integral part of sensory, nerve, and mental stimulation for people living with dementia. Many games and activities calm busy hands and decrease the frenzy to move or touch.

6. Marble Mazes

Maze game for dementia

Marble mazes are a fun and challenging way to move a marble along a track using only your hands. The board is light and easily controlled with the hands.

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Suitable for mid-late stages of dementia.

7. Tactile Matching Games

Tactile matching game for dementia

Matching games with a tactile twist can help unlock personal stories or spur positive feelings for people with dementia.

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Suitable for late stages of dementia.

8. Tactile Turn Fidget Toy

Tactile Turn sensory fidget game for dementia

The Tactile Turn helps keep hands busy, reducing stress and anxiety, and is focused on doing rather than achieving.

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Suitable for late stages of dementia.

9. Fidget Widgets

Sensory fidget widget toy for dementia

Fidget widgets bring a sense of calm and engagement to busy hands and unsettled minds. Using the widgets by rolling, twisting, turning, sliding, or spinning can help soothe.

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Suitable for mid-late stages of dementia.

Taste Stimulation Activities

Who doesn’t enjoy a blast from the past through their sense of taste? Especially by eating foods that remind us of childhood.

10. It’s Cookie O’Clock

Cookie baking activity for dementia patients

It’s Cookie O’Clock is an activity celebrating the joy of baking together. It’s a perfect activity for any time of the year!

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Suitable for early stages of dementia.

11. Delicious Discoveries

Food discovery game for dementia patient

The Delicious Discoveries activity allows noses, tongues, and hands to lead the way by exploring edible treats.

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Suitable for early stages of dementia. Note: This activity is only suitable for people who can swallow easily and without intervention.

More Experiences For Loved Ones With Dementia

Visit our website to explore more of our sensory-stimulating activities and products for those living with dementia.