Of the many timeless forms of universal human expression, play tops the list, eliciting the brightest experiences of joy and abandon in the present moment. As a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, play can help infuse otherwise routine days with laughter and fun. But don’t just take our word for it; empirical research supports the benefits of play for people living with neurodegenerative conditions. According to a study published in The Gerontologist journal, for example, “Play is not used to infantilize and trivialize people living with dementia but as a way to explore potential for expression, meaning-making, and relationship-building in later life.”
Part of the reason play is critical for older adults with dementia is that they often find themselves striving. They strive to remember, to belong in the moment, and to grasp their own sense of identity. But play doesn’t necessarily demand these potentially distressing efforts. With sensory stimulation, free movement of the body, social interaction without pressure, an older adult with dementia can relax into their own enjoyment.
Spring in the Bay Area is the perfect time to help revitalize an aging adult’s sense of joy and to reignite your days together with activities that invite play, exploration, and curiosity—even when dementia poses barriers to cognition and memory. Are you ready to spring into the season with music, movement, and time in nature? These Bay Area spring activities are perfect for seniors with dementia because they can be themselves and focus on fun.
Try Out Some Spring Activities for Seniors with Dementia in the Bay Area
The best way to discover whether your aging loved one might connect with and feel enlivened by creative spring activities that invite a sense of play is by giving them a try. You can participate in these opportunities with them, so they won’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed getting started.
Listen to Music
Music is a special kind of language that doesn’t require any specific memories or understanding. Some older adults with dementia may remember tunes and even lyrics of old favorite songs even though they may not remember things like family members’ names and their daily routines. The familiarity inspired by music can help an aging adult feel more relaxed and experience a sense of belonging in the moment. You can encourage them to sing, dance, or make sounds with a shaker or a bell or by tapping on a table or other surface to foster a sense of playfulness as they immerse themselves in the music. Discover some events and opportunities to enjoy music together in the Bay Area.
Especially for older adults who have been physically active throughout their lives, movement can wake up the bodies and perhaps even tap into some muscle memories. In fact, movement therapy can be a great activity for seniors with dementia: “There is no right or wrong in movement therapy: the entire point is to enjoy moving your body however you desire. In this way, it creates feelings of freedom, relaxation, and sometimes even catharsis in participants.” Movement therapy classes can also be a great opportunity for connection and socialization among peers and friends as it evokes a sense of playfulness and energy.
You can also consider yoga classes for an aging adult with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Yoga can offer total-body exercise, greater flexibility, deeper breathing, relaxation, and attention on one’s experience in the moment. You can also practice yoga together right at home and from chairs. And you can take time to meditate with this guided mindfulness practice to help an adult with dementia feel more grounded and greater connection.
The San Francisco Bay Area offers remarkable venues for getting outside and playing in nature. From the wide-open, windy coast to the dense and humid redwoods, there are diverse choices so you can try out different environments to pique an older adult’s curiosity. Take a walk around the neighborhood, or walk along some of the Bay Area’s beautiful trails. You could even just visit your nearest park. People watch, plant watch, bird watch—get creative. Before or even during your park visit, listen to this guided meditation for spring renewal together.
Spring is also the perfect time for gardening together at home or through Bay Area community gardening programs. If gardening is out of reach or not of interest, you could also visit a local farmers’ market to experience the season’s bounty.
How Can Caregivers Be Creative with Spring Days?
Weaving playful activities into your everyday routines with an aging loved one is a simple way of helping them stay active and engaged. Try out memory exercises, such as giving attention to all of the senses during a meal or listening to short story audiobooks to practice concentration. If they love to play games, you can suggest that you both play as a regular fun activity. Without overwhelming them, social activities can also be an effective way to prevent further isolation than older adults with dementia already experience. A Bay Area Social Day Program can introduce creative new activities into their day.
The more you can encourage your loved one to get involved in their daily life and activities, the more grounded they’ll feel. Dementia changes the lens through which they see the world. You can help them connect more closely with that lens so they won’t have to feel as if they don’t belong in their own experiences. Think of each new morning together as an opportunity for spring renewal, and take advantage of the possibilities of play.
Remember that you don’t have to navigate the journey of aging or caretaking alone. Institute on Aging offers programs, services, and resources to support seniors, their families, and caregivers. Browse our blog for more ideas of activities you can enjoy with your aging loved one. And contact us today at 415-750-4111 to find out how we can greet spring together.