Activities That Benefit Seniors with Dementia

Having a sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging is vital to successfully navigating older age with optimism and joy.  Engaging with people and activities in the community and staying socially connected is essential for psychological well-being among people of all ages, including older adults with dementia.

According to a recent Mc Master Aging Portal Blog post, research has shown that among seniors with dementia, participating in meaningful activities outside of long-term care facilities can improve their quality of life and well-being.  Thirty-three percent of older adults diagnosed with dementia under the age of 80 and 42 percent of those over the age of 80 reside in a long-term care home.  

Although the need for greater assistance with acts of daily living, including bathing, meals, dressing, or eating may lead to a move into an assisted-living facility, continuing to participate in activities in the greater community can provide important mental and emotional health benefits.  

Traditionally, most of the activities seniors with dementia participate in are held within the grounds of a long-term care facility.  Older adults may garden, create art, or participate in music programs – but most often these activities are held on-site.   Recent research has found, however, that participating in activities within the greater community can hold many benefits for seniors with dementia, while also helping to create more inclusivity, awareness, and acceptance of people with some degree of cognitive impairment. 

With a rapidly aging population, the proportion of older adults in the population will rise significantly over the next 20 to 30 years, as will the incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment.  Participating in activities such as art gallery visits, walking, horseback riding, cycling or swimming provides many health benefits to all people, including those with dementia.  Interacting with different age groups can also boost mood and reduce depressive symptoms.  Engaging in activities may also reduce behavioral symptoms among elderly adults with dementia. 

When caregivers are choosing a long-term care facility for an elderly loved one, it’s important to consider if there are activities outside of the facility available for residents’ participation.  Asking about the safety plan, transportation, and staffing requirements necessary to offer outside activities to care residents should also be a part of the discussion for existing and new living, care community management.