Everyone needs to feel engaged and entertained. Just because someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t mean that need disappears. How seniors find that engagement may need to change. Ann Kositsky, a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner at ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, shared dozens of activities for seniors with dementia. She’s used them to reduce anxiety, distract from challenging behavior, and bring joy to people with cognitive impairments.
We recommend activities that have no right or wrong way to do them because they’re fun, satisfying, and give a much-needed sense of accomplishment. Being engaged in satisfying activities can also be an effective alternative to using medications to reduce agitation, challenging behavior, and unhappy moods.
12 Fun Activities for Seniors with Dementia
1. Melissa and Doug 7-piece tool puzzle ($10)
This 7-piece puzzle has a variety of chunky, easy-to-grasp tools.
2. Color and shape puzzle ($14)
This is a colorful and fun puzzle with easily identifiable shapes and images.
3. Dog Hardcover Book ($13)
This hardcover book has thick, easy-to-turn pages and large beautiful pictures of all kinds of dogs.
4. Cat hardcover book ($16)
This hardcover book has thick, easy-to-turn pages and large beautiful pictures of all kinds of cats
5. Wooden 24-piece tool box kit ($13)
This 24-piece set includes wooden tools, nails, screws, nuts, and bolts.
6. Wheelee ball ($16)
This is an inflatable ball surrounded by a soft foam ring. It’s easy to throw and catch.
These lovely 6-piece puzzles are replicas of vintage prints from the Saturday Evening Post magazine, a staple in many households when seniors were young.
An alternative option for a 12-piece puzzles. Bring on the childhood memories.
9. Deluxe latches board ($25)
This well-crafted board is brightly colored and has polished metal locks, latches, and clasps. Each door opens to has a fun picture.
10. Plastic nuts & bolts set with 64 pieces ($24)
These brightly colored plastic nuts and bolts provide hours of safe fun. You can attach and detach the nuts and bolts or sort by color or shape.
11. My Little Puppy singing plush puppy ($27)
This soft, cuddly puppy is 10″ tall and sings “If You’re Happy And You Know It.” The best part? It claps hands and ears along with the song! Batteries included.
12. Lock Box game ($90)
This is a well-built hardwood box with with 3 separate compartments, 10 doors, and 10 different latches. For extra fun, put snacks or small keepsakes inside the box for your older adult to discover.
They’re not just simple children’s toys
Don’t be misled or discouraged by the appearance of these activities. Some may have been made for children, but the way older adults experience them is completely different.
For example, a toy tool box might allow dad to safely recreate happy memories of the home repairs he made to keep the house in great shape. A Saturday Morning Post puzzle could take mom back to her childhood. The singing puppy gives warm hugs and its cheerful song brings a smile to anyone’s face. (At the conference, the entire room spontaneously clapped and sang along when Ann played the song!)
Even though these activities have been stereotyped as children’s toys, don’t let that stop you from offering them to your older adult. If an activity engages them, brings joy, and reduces troubling behaviors, who cares what the label says?