Research studies show that providing creative activities for people with dementia is hugely beneficial. Activities stimulate the mind, which improves communication and thinking, creates a sense of community and gives people the tools to express themselves through art. Importantly, it’s also just really great fun!
At Moving Waves, we recognise and celebrate the benefits of bringing people together in meaningful, creative ways. Our facilitators are experts in delivering bespoke, thoughtful workshops for everyone in arts, yoga, drama and more. Below you can find some examples of our sessions designed to help people living with dementia experience fun, while also feeling engaged and supported.
This exercise is based on storytelling and group work. I suggest that you share a number of images and ask the group to describe what they see. For example, if you show a picture of a lake, ask them, what colours do they see? Is the water clear? Can they see any fish? How many? What colours? By providing loose, open prompts, this simple activity has the potential to unlock so much creativity.
Maybe following the story about the lake, you might suggest that the group tries to fish. If so, what tools do they need to fish? How do we fish? The group can use gentle, physical movements to act out the stories. They can also use props like ribbons, balloons and simple masks to develop plots, create drama and visualise characters. The number of stories you can make together is limited only by your imagination!
As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words and for those living with dementia, crafts can enable non-verbal communication and trigger memories. Even something as simple as designing a tablecloth or making themed crafts such as frames for Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas can be hugely rewarding for participants.
There are so many options between sketching, painting, colouring and crafting. Personally, I found that participants loved making decorations for everyday use such as painting cups or making paintings to hang in their rooms afterwards. I like to think it reminded them of the fun we had together and that they were proud of what they had created.
If you are with the same group for a number of sessions, you could consider doing a longer-term project such as creating individual scrapbooks. This can be a fantastic way to track each resident’s interests and celebrate all the fantastic work that you have created together! You can even make it seasonal with Spring, Autumn, Winter and Summer themed boards. That way it adds a bit of colour and cheer to the space as well as reflecting the creativity of the group and the changing seasons.
Music has the unique ability to bring you back in time. It can remind you of a happy moment in your life or a specific moment that resonated with you. I’m always amazed that when I hear a song on the radio that I haven’t heard since I was a teenager that the words just seem to come back automatically, reminding me of that time in my life.
If you sing or play an instrument, it’s easy to look up lyrics and chords online. I recommend that you host a music workshop based on specific themes or musical periods. Hand out sheets with lyrics to encourage participants to sing and dance to music they may not have heard in years. Encourage them to submit requests for their favourite songs.
Even if you do not play an instrument, you can use some high-quality, karaoke tracks with a Bluetooth speaker. I often like to blend in some storytelling or add a common thread or theme such as ‘Elvis’ or ‘The Theme of Love’ to encourage participants to reminisce and engage in conversation.
Some of my most special moments with Moving Waves have been watching the joyful reaction of participants, re-hearing a song that they first listened to as a child or danced to when young. In these sessions, encourage gentle movement or a simple sing along. I promise you that by the end of the session everyone will have big smiles on their faces!
Yoga is a relaxing, accessible activity, which can be modified to suit all age groups and fitness levels. For older groups, chair-based movements work well. In an hour-long session, you can work your way gradually through the entire body, from head to toes, while giving each part specific attention. Our facilitators at Moving Waves have extensive knowledge about moving the body, while keeping participants safe by carefully modifying the movements.
By putting on some music and timing your movements and stretches to the beat, you can get participants chatting and laughing as they move together. Adding in songs they know will also keep them engaged and even singing along. In addition to mental relaxation, yoga is beneficial to the body, helping to relieve stiff joints. What’s more, after a session, participants can reward themselves with a cup of tea and a biscuit. What could be better?
Dance is a fun and engaging activity, helping to connect us with our bodies. Pop on some of the group’s favourite music and learn a gentle dance from when they were younger. This works particularly well if you pair the dance with themed music. Like yoga, dance movements can also be adapted to suit the group’s activity and fitness levels. Trust me, you can still break into a gentle sweat even when sitting down!
This creative activity is sure to get conversations and laughter going in the room. You can even offer moments within the dance for members of the group to make up their own movements and feel the music. You can also add in props such as dancing scarfs, ribbons or pom poms for a more tactile, interactive experience. From my own personal experience in doing movement workshops, residents have commented how much they love to watch all the colours, especially with music that is fast paced.
There you have it! Just a few simple, fun and creative ideas that you can use to engage people living with dementia.
If you would like more ideas, Moving Waves has just developed an amazing booklet full of creative ways to bring people together. Written by Tina Euri, founder of Moving Waves and one of the most experienced facilitators from our team, 'Beyond the Walls'' includes 100+ creative activities for people living with dementia.
All these activities have been tried and tested through our experience with care home residents over the years. Activities include art, drama, music and dance-based games/exercises. This booklet will be released soon. Keep an eye on our social channels for further information on how to get your hands on this valuable resource!
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