In a senior community, residents and their caregivers navigate the challenges of a wide range of issues related to memory. While a certain amount of forgetfulness is fairly common starting in middle-age, some seniors will experience what is termed a memory disorder. The loss of memory, along with other cognitive symptoms like difficulty concentrating, can hinder the enjoyment of many activities. It’s important for their quality of life and overall health that seniors stay active and engaged. Certain activities may even slow the progression of memory loss.
Those with memory disorders will need to discover activities they can engage in, either by themselves or with others, in order to live the fullest life possible. Let’s take a look at some of the most stimulating activities for seniors with memory loss.
What is a Memory Disorder?
It’s important to recognize that memory decline looks different in each person, and only a physician can diagnose the underlying cause. According to the University of Cincinnati, “More than 100 health conditions are associated with cognitive decline, the ability to reason, remember, make decisions and communicate.” The most common memory loss-related conditions in seniors are Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, including vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia.
A condition is classified as a memory disorder — as opposed to forgetfulness — when it disables intellectual abilities, limiting the ability of a person to do certain things. Living in a memory care community can make up for many of the everyday tasks and self-care that a person cannot accomplish alone.
Four Types of Activities for Seniors in Memory Care
In a memory care environment, the community and its caregivers should encourage seniors to receive proper rest but also engage in the activities that stimulate their minds. Look for activities in one or more of these categories.
1. Hobbies and Crafts
A senior struggling with a memory disorder might find comfort in an old hobby, perhaps one they abandoned long ago, or even a new one. They might engage in painting, needlework, clay sculpting, jigsaw puzzles, or anything else that is within their ability. Another option is to sing or dance along to old music. People with dementia often remember music and lyrics surprisingly well. The AARP advises that any hobby or activity for a person with a memory disorder should be enjoyable for the senior, “failure free,” safe, and simple.
2. Social Interactions
Sometimes just talking or spending time connecting with another person can be immensely meaningful. Loved ones of people with memory disorders often experience frustration when the senior doesn’t recognize them, forgets previous conversations, or doesn’t want to talk. However, sometimes the best course of action is to just enjoy each other’s company, whatever that looks like. The senior may wish to tell stories from their life or simply chat about whatever is on their mind. These interactions might take some getting used to but they can enhance quality of life. Engaging in conversation via phone or video conference may be a challenge for someone with a memory disorder, but if it’s possible it can offer one more way to stay in touch.
3. Household Tasks
Some seniors with memory issues find pleasure in simple cleaning and organizing around their home. Repetitive tasks can be calming and enjoyable, especially when interacting with cherished objects — for instance, sorting favorite books or organizing photographs. A caregiver should check that the senior does not have access to any items that might pose a safety hazard, but aside from that precaution, the senior should do what they enjoy.
4. Outdoor Activities
Some studies actually show that spending time outdoors can improve memory. It provides a whole range of benefits for mental and physical health, and it’s a pleasant experience that requires little effort. Seniors who are able to can enjoy easy hikes or gardening while others may prefer to sit quietly on a porch or balcony taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Walking has been shown to slow cognitive decline, so walking outside offers double the benefit.
Choosing the Right Memory Care
When choosing a memory care community for a senior family member or friend, ask about the activities and amenities they offer. In addition, confirm that your loved one will be looked after by a professional caregiver who understands what kinds of activities will be most beneficial and will avoid those that might have negative effects.