Activities for Adults with Dementia

General Guidelines

  • Activities help avoid “Empty Day Syndrome” and helps behaviors such as “Sundowning” and wandering.
  • Select and modify activities according to the individual’s ability level
  • Use both visual and verbal instruction (model the activity; explain slowly, one step at a time)
  • Tactile and muscular feedback work even better for later stages (manipulate the individual’s limbs gently)
  • Simplify or break the activity into smaller components for success; one-on-one interaction may be best
  • Repeat well-liked activities; provide activities that offer positive results; know the person

Activities for Adults with Dementia

Arts & Crafts

  • Paste a theme collage: animals, babies, occupations, WWI, WWII, etc.
  • Seasonal crafts: prepare in advance and simplify steps
  • Paint or draw with watercolors or crayons (offer 2 or 3 colors in later stages)
  • Simple shapes with plastic modeling clay (it’s not messy)


  • Reminiscence: the joy of memories; use visual prompts like photo albums
  • Focus on easy recollections–use props like old clothes or knickknacks if necessary
  • Organize or enjoy photo, stamp, coin albums together

Pets are Calming

  • Live pets present some risks but give feeling of unconditional acceptance
  • Bird watching, aquariumsether

Music Therapy

  • Dancing, rhythm band or clapping to music
  • Sing-a-longs: old hymns, patriotic songs, old-time ditties
  • Musical reminiscence: big band era, old war tunes
  • Learn individual music preferences; consider using an IPod with favorite music
  • Music boxes, especially ones with figurines on top
  • Exercise to music–simple aerobics/chair exercises (toss a ball or balloon)

Books or Magazines (Ideals, Country Living,)

  • Read a short magazine story together–especially one with pictures
  • Read poetry and bring appropriate pictures the individual can look at
  • Read a newspaper article
  • Browse clothing catalogs

Ball Games (Produce enthusiastic articipation/promote longer attentionspan)

  • Ball games with heavy-duty helium-filled balloons work well
  • Use soccer sized, softball; nerf ring toss, indoor bowling, indoor golf

Housework & Yard Work

  • Set table, dust, sort or fold laundry, sweep floors, wash dishes
  • Rake, plant, sweep walk, water lawn, weed, pick off dandelions
  • Knead bread, top pizza, make fruit salad, stir things

Personal Activities

  • Do hair or fingernails, give a shave (set up a barber chair or salon)
  • Offer to moisturize the individual’s skin with a favorite lotion
  • Take a walk. Exercise has many health benefits for the person living with dementia as well as their care partners

Stuffed Animals & Dolls

  • Motorized “Companion” animals (Encourage to choose their favorites)
  • Dolls; snapping, buttoning, zipping dolls’ clothes are remembered activities; in later stages the dolls may become “real”

Tactile Therapy

  • Textured cloth & fur: nesting bags or muffs with different attachments for those who like to touch things
  • Balls of yarn–winding (take out decreases agitation and disruptive behavior)

How we can help