Whether you are working in a facility with dementia patients or you are caring for senior loved ones who are dealing with dementia – having an activity calendar can save you time and frustration!
Choosing a good activity calendar for seniors living with dementia can be difficult. There are many different types of calendars out there, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. In this article, we will explore some activities that you can do with someone with dementia.
Or perhaps – our suggestions will inspire you to create your own!
Table of Contents
What Are Some Good Activities For Someone With Dementia?
For family members who are caring for someone with dementia at home, it may be a challenge to find the best way of presenting an activity.
More often than not, when asked to do things they have not done before, a person with dementia can easily become frustrated which could lead to agitation, etc.
It can be hard to find appropriate activities for an elder with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There are a few things you should consider before coming up with ideas of what to do together including the following:
- Their leisure preferences – current (or past) interests and hobbies
- Their current physical functioning (know what they physically can and cannot do)
- Their current cognitive functions (are they in the early stages or late stages of their disease)
- Their individual needs (do they need more social tasks, physical activities or sensory ones?)
- Where are they most comfortable and safe? Indoors or outdoors?
- Be aware of what time of day is best for activities. Many seniors with dementia suffer from sundowning and their level of skills may actually decline during this time period.
This paper reports on a two-part study of nursing home recreation. In part one, a retrospective activity calendar and chart review was used in this comparative study of 107 long-term care residents with dementia. Data were collected and documented regarding demographics, cognitive and physical functioning, medications, activities listed on facility activity calendars, leisure preferences, and actual involvement in recreation over a two-week consecutive period during baseline. In part two, this information was compared to opportunities offered during a two-week clinical trial of recreational therapy. The results showed that, during baseline, almost 45 percent of the subjects in the sample received little or no facility activities, 20 percent received occasional activities, and 12 percent received daily activities but they were deemed inappropriate based on the functioning levels or interests of the residents. The clinical trial period demonstrated that small group recreational therapy was successful in engaging residents 84 percent of the time.From an abstract published in the National Library of Medicine
A List Of Good Activities For Seniors With Dementia Include:
A loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may enjoy occasional activities that are physically taxing. The best example of this is gardening. It provides the physical activity, but also allows for socializing and a sense of accomplishment in the garden afterwards.
Another idea would be to take walks around the neighborhood or town every day at a set time (with them leading!).
Some other activity ideas are:
- Sing-a-longs – using karaoke machine or just listening to songs that are familiar to them is a great way to become engaged and have a little fun. Although memory loss is a common trait in seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s – long term memory may still be intact.
- Arts and crafts – anything from painting to working with play dough to large Lego blocks to create something. Working in a small group may be better than larger groups. Here are some suggestions for easy crafts for seniors with dementia.
- Meaningful activities – most everyone wants to feel a sense of purpose so daily activities like raking leaves, peeling potatoes, setting the dining room table, folding laundry, brushing the family pet, sorting nuts and bolts, gardening are all tasks that many seniors with dementia can do.
- Special occasions – keeping a calendar of birthdays and anniversaries of friends and family is important and having greeting cards on hand to send to them makes it even easier to write down a note for them.
- Familiar board games – for someone with mild dementia, playing a familiar board game may be a wonderful activity.
- Large piece puzzles – not everyone enjoys puzzles but for those who do – this activity can help to keep someone busy with an enjoyable task.
- Walking – regular exercise is important for everyone, including those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Depending of course on their physical abilities. You can turn it into an activity by adding a scavenger hunt to the walk.
Each of these will have to be re-assessed as the senior advances into later stages of his or her disease.
There are so many activities you can do with long-term care residents or home bound seniors with dementia. The important thing is to find what they enjoy most and tailor the activity around them!
Remember, it’s about quality of life for those with dementia as well as anyone else in their lives.
Monthly Activity Calendar
Many nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior residences create monthly facility activity calendars of events for their residents and I honestly don’t see any reason why that can’t also be done for elderly with dementia in a home setting.
Not only does a monthly calendar help to keep family members and caregivers on a schedule, it can make life so much easier and give caregivers some peace of mind knowing that there are activities planned for the day.
One note of caution – JUST because you have an activity scheduled, certainly does not mean that it can and/or will be completed.
As anyone who lives with or works with older adults with dementia knows – it’s important to be flexible and understand that it’s more important to listen to the needs of the person with dementia vs. forcing any type of activity.
Let’s take a look at a sample activity calendar filled with a month’s full of different activities including some outdoor activities as well. We’ll use the month of June as an example and we’ll introduce new calendars for other months in the future.
Activity Calendar For June
Say Something Nice Day – Get some stationary and write to a few people and say something nice to them. What a great surprise it will be for them to receive that!
Outdoor Activity – If you live in a home or area where you can set up bird feeders and maybe even make some bird houses – that would be a great activity.
Indoor Activity – Painting rocks for your outdoor garden or just to make as gifts can be a really fun and creative activity for the whole family.
National Rotisserie Chicken Day – What a great excuse to go out and get some Rotisserie chicken or even better – make one on your outdoor grill! Make a picnic out of it in your backyard.
Outdoor Activity – Along with that outdoor picnic any game like cornhole or croquet or ring toss could be fun physical activities not only for seniors but for the entire family.
Indoor Activity – Painting rocks for your outdoor garden or just to make as gifts can be a really fun and creative activity for the whole family.
Wonder Woman Day – To most of us, our senior moms are wonder women so why not make today all about her? Take her to her favorite park, beach, etc. Get her favorite ice cream or meal or maybe just invite some folks over for a little coffee and cake.
Outdoor Activity – Even if you can’t (or won’t) ride a bike – just getting out to a park or Greenway to watch them can be enjoyable – especially if you bring along a snack.
Indoor Activity – There are some great bicycle themed movies that you can all enjoy like Breaking Away, Bicycle Thieves and American Flyers.
Banana Split Day – How much fun could it be to gather all the ingredients for a banana split and then enjoy the treat with the family! It’s a great way to promote social interaction.
Outdoor Activity – Before it gets TOO hot – spend some time at your local zoo! I bet it’s been a long time since you’ve been there.
Indoor Activity – Get to the store and buy some bananas and have a little fun with them! From food to crafts – there’s more to a banana than meets the eye.
National Bubbly Day – I once served champagne to my in-laws with dinner and my mom-in-law said, “What are we celebrating?” I said, “It’s Wednesday!” My point is, you don’t need a special event to make an everyday event special.
Outdoor Activity – Exposure to sunshine and fresh air has been proven to lift moods and reduce stress and this is certainly true for anyone with dementia.
Indoor Activity – A bubble bath may be something your senior loved one hasn’t done for a very long time and if they are physically capable of getting in and out of a bathtub safely – it may be something that they may enjoy.
National Eyewear Day – Make it a point today to take your eye glasses to get cleaned and adjusted or maybe even to get some new funky ones!
Outdoor Activity – Get those sunglasses out and take a drive! My aunt had a difficult time getting out and about so we often took car drives out into the country – just to get away, listen to some music and enjoy the fresh air.
Indoor Activity – Virtual reality for seniors with mild dementia can be very beneficial and fun too. “VR can clearly have positive benefits for patients with dementia, their families, and caregivers. It provides a richer and more satisfying quality of life than is otherwise available, with many positive outcomes.” Dr. Chee Siang Ang
Daniel Boone Day – A good day to grill in the backyard or a park and enjoy the outdoors.
Outdoor Activity – If you can enjoy some fishing and maybe some backyard camping today would be a good day for that.
Indoor Activity – Have a little fun with a western themed Bingo game or enjoy the old Daniel Boone tv show.
World Pet Memorial Day – Honor the wonderful pets that you and your family have had in the past on this day by writing down their stories to share with the family.
Outdoor Activity – Plant a little memorial garden for your pets that have passed away.
Indoor Activity – Make some memorial rocks with this rock painting kit to remember the pets that have given you so much love through the years.
Donald Duck Day – Celebrate with some wonderful old Donald Duck movies.
Outdoor Activity – If you have a park nearby where there are ducks in the lake then today would be a great day to enjoy spending some time with them.
Indoor Activity – Have some fun making Donald Duck cookies with this great cookie cutter tool.
Iced Tea Day – Host an iced tea affair and ask everyone to bring their own iced tea concoction.
Outdoor Activity – If your town has a tea shop nearby – today would be an appropriate time to go visit them and maybe discover a different kind of tea.
Indoor Activity – Experiment with some different iced teas. My favorite is mixing Red Zinger tea with Lemon Ginger tea! Yummy!
Corn on the Cob Day – Besides just eating corn – why not share it with your backyard pets? Many of us can spend hours just watching birds, squirrels and chipmunks enjoy these treats.
Outdoor Activity – Grilling corn on the cob and making a backyard (or park) picnic out of it with family and/or friends seems an appropriate activity today.
Indoor Activity – There are some wonderful recipes that you can make with corn so why not try some of them together?
National Marina Day – If you live near the ocean or a lake or are lucky enough to have a boat then go and celebrate today by the water.
Outdoor Activity – Even if you can’t get to a marina – you may be able to get to your local aquarium or just blow up a little kiddie pool and enjoy dipping your toes in the cool water.
Indoor Activity – A fun game of Go Fish can make a lazy hot summer afternoon just a bit better.
Random Acts of Light – This day is meant to encourage us all to bring some light into the lives of anyone suffering from cancer. If you know someone like that – a simple act of kindness would be a wonderful gift to give today.
Outdoor Activity – Put some luminary bags out (or make your own) and use small flameless candles in them.
Indoor Activity – Spend some time today calling and connecting with family and friends who are dealing with or have dealt with cancer.
Family History Day – Get your family’s history written down while you still have the seniors in your life who can give you that information. Today is the day to begin that project.
Outdoor Activity – Visit a history museum or spend some time with older relatives.
Indoor Activity – Either film your senior loved ones telling you their stories or write down what you find in this Geneology Organizer.
National Lobster Day – I personally am not a fan of Lobster but if you are – then today could be your day to celebrate this delicacy.
Outdoor Activity – A trip to a seafood restaurant or a local fish store where you can pick out your own Lobster to bring home for dinner may be fun.
Indoor Activity – Anyone who enjoys lobster probably already knows how to make them but why not try something new and different? Check out these 11 recipes.
National Fudge Day – Most everyone loves fudge so it’s no surprise that there’s a day dedicated to this delicious dessert.
Outdoor Activity – A trip to a candy store or a fudge store (if you have one nearby) could be a fun trip to celebrate this chocolatey delight.
Indoor Activity – Of course – making your own fudge recipe at home and inviting some friends or family and the kids could be a great indoor activity today.
Bartender Day – I suppose Bartenders need their own day too. After all, they work very hard to help others have a good time when they are out for a drink. Remember, even if you don’t drink alcohol, there’s plenty of fun drinks you can make that are non-alcoholic.
Outdoor Activity – A visit to an outdoor local bar or restaurant for a late afternoon drink could be a fun thing to do – especially if you invite others along.
Indoor Activity – Today is all about what bartenders do and that is making a great drink. So have some fun and get yourself a Mixology kit and some recipes and enjoy the day.
Clark Kent’s Birthday – Today is the birthday of Bud Collyer, who was the voice behind the very first live-action Superman!
Outdoor Activity – Find a spot where you can spend some night time looking up at the stars and enjoy the vast expanse of space before us.
Indoor Activity – Your senior loved ones may remember the original Superman TV show which might be a lot of fun to re-watch with them.
Garfield the Cat Day – The cartoon cat Garfield is extremely popular and can be found on many products so it makes sense that he would have his own day.
Outdoor Activity – I sometimes like to go to the pet shelter and just sit in the room with the kittens and spend some time with them and then go sit in the room with the older cats and play with them too. Of course you can do this with puppies as well. It’s great pet therapy!
Indoor Activity – There are all kinds of cat and pet related puzzles that you can spend time putting together!
National Sea Shell Day – Some people just LOVE sea shells! Well, if that’s you or your senior loved one then today is your day to celebrate.
Outdoor Activity – Of course, taking time to get to the beach for some sea shell hunting would be the logical outdoor treat of the day. But if you can’t get to the beach, then why not buy some sea shells and make your own sea shell hunt in your backyard.
Indoor Activity – There are many different kinds of sea shell crafts that you and your family can enjoy doing while indoors.
National Selfie Day – Strike a pose, take a selfie and share it with family and friends cause today is the day to celebrate a selfie!
Outdoor Activity – Get outdoors for any activity and click away! You can use a selfie stick or tripod to take some photos.
Indoor Activity – Share your new selfie photos with others via text or social media.
World Rainforest Day – Many of us who do not live near rainforests rarely think of them but they provide so much to us by stabilizing climate through absorbing carbon dioxide and increasing humidity.
Outdoor Activity – Take some time to visit a local botanical garden. This would be a wonderful sensory stimulation activity.
Indoor Activity – Take some time to consider joining the World Rainforest Day organization and helping to support saving these very precious parts of the world.
National Detroit Style Pizza Day – I honestly didn’t even know there was a Detroit style pizza! But if you’re from this great city – then today should be a day to celebrate.
Outdoor Activity – Detroit, Michigan is the birthplace of the American automobile and Motown music so take a drive, listen to some great songs and head to your local pizza joint for a treat!
Indoor Activity – But if you would prefer to make your own pizza at home, then check out this great recipe for this regional and flavorful pizza.
World UFO Day – If you are a SyFy fan like me, then any day celebrating science fiction and space anomalies is a day to celebrate!
Outdoor Activity – Take out your telescopes and spend some time out tonight staring up at the night sky searching for any UFO’s!
Indoor Activity – The classic UFO movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a must watch to celebrate this holiday.
Color TV Day – I certainly remember black and white television so I know that your senior loved ones remember it too. Today we celebrate the advent of color television which although it was introduced in 1939, it didn’t become a commercial product until 1953.
Outdoor Activity – Get yourself an inflatable movie projector screen and a projector and enjoy movies in the backyard.
Indoor Activity – Or spend some time today celebrating some of the first movies and shows from 1953 that were broadcast in color. How to Marry a Millionaire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, War of the Worlds and more. See the list here.
Great American Backyard Campout – What a great idea! Instead of plowing everyone into a car and heading off to the wilderness for some camping – why not do it right in your own backyard!
Outdoor Activity – Get your camping gear and head out to your backyard for a little “roughing it”! I would not necessarily recommend that your senior loved ones spend the night sleeping on the ground but you can still spend a few hours in the back, roasting marshmallows or just enjoying the sounds of nature.
Indoor Activity – Make some S’mores indoors with this great recipe!
Log Cabin Day – The Log Cabin Society decided that they should have a day dedicated to their topic of interest so hey, why not?
Outdoor Activity – If there is a log cabin builder in your area – it may be fun to go take a tour of their log cabin homes.
Indoor Activity – Check out the many log cabin crafts and puzzles that you and your family can do today.
Paul Bunyan Day – The story of Paul Bunyan first appeared in 1906 but the tales may have started as far back as 1837.
Outdoor Activity – Getting out to any National Park or local park today would seem an appropriate activity to celebrate this American outdoorsman.
Indoor Activity – Contact your local library and ask them if they have any books about Paul Bunyan that you can take some time today to read.
National Camera Day – I guess it makes sense that the same month there’s a selfie day, there should be a camera day too.
Outdoor Activity – Get your camera or your phone and get out and start snapping away towards a project. Maybe you can search your town for photos of flowers, or scenery, or maybe even artwork.
Indoor Activity – Today is a good day to sort through those boxes of family photos and begin working on organizing them or maybe even scrapbooking them and creating some beautiful photo albums.
Social Media Day – Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. So why not make the most of it.
Outdoor Activity – Gather some of those great photos you’ve taken this month and post them on some of your favorite social media platforms. Or, go ahead and sign up for some new ones!
Indoor Activity – Celebrate the day by recognizing the fact that too many people are using social media to hurt others. So, give up doing ANY posting, tweeting, etc. for the entire day!
We hope you enjoy this list of activities for seniors with dementia. Be sure to share it on social media so that other families can find these ideas too!