Summer activities for people with dementia
The warm weather is a great opportunity for people living with dementia to engage in activities they enjoy – as long as you stay safe and take the proper precautions when it comes to sun safety.
Not sure what to do? Here are some ideas to get you thinking!
Get outside and enjoy nature
There’s nothing like being amongst the trees to lift your spirits! In a recent study, researchers asked two groups of people to walk for 90 minutes: one in a natural setting, the other group in an urban one. After comparing their brain activity, they found that those who walked in nature had lower activity levels in the part of the brain that is active when we repetitively focus on negative emotions.
Australia has a wide range of bushwalks for all ages and abilities, from longer more challenging hikes to short walks with paved paths and flat surfaces to walk on. For something closer to home, try going for a short stroll in your local park, doing some gardening, or having your afternoon tea on the balcony where you can hear the birds sing.
Unleash your creative side
Research shows art therapy for older people with dementia can bring significant improvements in cognition and mood, long after the session is over. Art also has plenty of proven benefits for our wellbeing, such as relieving stress and promoting relaxation. And if it’s done with other people, it can also create a sense of community as an anecdote to loneliness.
There are plenty of art projects to try with a loved one, based on cognitive ability: painting (including paint by numbers kits), origami, colouring in books, card making, cross-stitch, flower arranging, making beaded jewellery, pottery or painting clay pots, making wreaths. The sky’s the limit!
Get into gardening
Gardening brings a sense of joy and achievement. It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities, whether you’re tending your own veggie patch, pruning a hedge or watering a pot of herbs on your balcony.
Provided that you stay out of the sun in the heat of the day and practice sun safety, summer is a great time to try your hand at growing something outside. Tending to plants encourages sensory stimulation, while moving your body increases flexibility and strength. Caring for another living thing can also restore confidence to people with dementia, and provide a sense of purpose to their day.
Cook a simple recipe together
Cooking a meal with someone – perhaps a picnic to enjoy at the local park – is a great way to have fun while engaging all of the senses. Some ways to make cooking accessible for people with dementia are simplifying the steps of a recipe, removing dangerous utensils like sharp knives, disabling appliances when not in use, giving gentle reminders and choosing tasks that can be achieved without too much stress, such as peeling or mixing.
Take a day trip
Taking a trip to a place of interest, such as a museum, botanical gardens or an art gallery, can be a fun way to spend the day. For a great outing, take some time to plan ahead and keep in mind what your loved one prefers. A quiet place with less sensory information to process might be ideal (for example, a museum), while a trip to the beach or a bushwalk is great for those who love being outdoors.
Also consider what time of day is most suitable for the outing, depending on how crowded the venue gets and when your loved one is at their best. It’s also a good idea to visit the place beforehand so you know what to expect. You can also check the noise levels, the amenities and any issues with accessibility, such as how easy the pathways are to walk along.
Listen to music together
Music can help people living with dementia connect to past memories. It also stimulates the mind, helps people engage with something in a non-verbal way, and fosters a happy mood.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy music with your loved one. You could listen to a CD together, put compile a playlist of their favourite songs, take part in a dancing class, play an instrument, sing their favourite hymns or songs. If you would like some help, Dementia Caring is officially accredited to provide music and memory therapy to people living with dementia, helping to deepen family relationships and improve wellbeing.