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Are toddlers just the tonic for elderly with dementia?

June 4, 2018

Do you work in a nursing home caring for elderly people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia? Are you trying to help them keep a sense of who they are? And to retain their memories for as long as possible? If so, then perhaps it’s time to bring in the toddlers.

That’s because, in a recent BBC Wales TV experiment called The Toddlers Who Took On Dementia, elderly residents who spent time with toddlers were not only shown to have had a lot of fun, but also to be more engaged than usual.

In fact, one 82-year old woman called Mo, who usually prefers to be on her own and clings to a doll constantly for comfort, actually came and interacted with the children, putting her doll aside and even trying to speak for the first time in years.

Led by three psychologists from Bangor University, the project brought together the older and younger generations for a three-day programme of activities devised by a team of psychologists.

These organised activities included dancing to music. Not only was this something that the toddlers really enjoyed, music can also be a powerful prompt for people with dementia, helping to bring back special memories of the past.

In fact, NHS England says that listening to or playing music can have numerous benefits for those with dementia, helping to maintain speech and language, whilst also reducing anxiety and depression.

Other activities to encourage fun and engagement

Of course, there are also many other types of activities that have been proven to bring pleasure to people with dementia. Here are just a few:

• Gardening

According to the charity, Thrive, “Regular gardening activity has been shown by a recent study1, which followed people over a long period of time, to reduce the risk of dementia by 36%.”

By encouraging physical activity and social interaction through this relaxing pastime, gardening can provide the perfect situation for reminiscing, whilst giving residents the opportunity to take pride in creating and maintaining a beautiful space.

Even if some of your residents struggle to do any gardening themselves, a trip to a botanical garden, park or arboretum can be a very calming, uplifting and pleasurable experience for them.

• Arts and crafts

Organising arts and crafts activities such as painting a plant pot, making handmade greetings cards or crocheting a blanket, can bring a huge amount of pleasure to people living with dementia.

However, there have also been several studies suggesting that getting involved in arts and crafts can actually delay the onset of thinking and memory problems that often lead to dementia.

This means that this sort of activity is useful not only for elderly residents with dementia, but also for those who are not yet experiencing the symptoms.

  • Cooking and baking

Following simple recipes to cook or bake can be a great social activity, helping residents with dementia to focus on the task and enjoy the sense of achievement of creating scrumptious goodies.

From putting together a trifle, to baking gingerbread men or flapjacks, there are a huge variety of foodie ideas that you and your residents can come up with. Or why not let them try out an old favourite recipe? It could bring back powerful emotional memories of loved ones and happy times.


More activity ideas for people with dementia

Of course, there are many more activities that you can involve your residents in, whether or not you decide to add toddlers to the mix!

For more ideas, click on this link for a list of activity ideas for people with dementia, drawn up by the Alzheimer’s Society.