As we head into an uncertain winter, one thing we know for sure is that we will be spending more time in our homes than usual, thanks to the pandemic. Winter is always a challenging time for those living with dementia, as it reduces the opportunities to get out and about and to see friendly faces. We’ve rounded up some of the best activities for you to try with your older adult to stop them from getting bored and frustrated over the colder months. You can pick and choose depending on their level of ability and interest. 

One important thing to remember is that just like the rest of us, those with dementia need to feel successful at things – so it is no good giving jigsaws that are too complex, or tasks that can be ‘failed’ at. Best are activities that are open-ended, with no real possibility of getting frustrated if the elements are too difficult. And of course it goes without saying to choose objects/activities carefully so there is no chance of them injuring themselves or swallowing small items. 

  1. Towel folding. This is a great one as the older person feels useful and it doesn’t matter how the towels end up looking. Just say you need some help with folding and leave them to it. Hand-towel size is best so it’s not too hard to manipulate. 
  2. Fabric Box. Create a tub of fun fabrics to sift through. Rather like the towels, the older person could fold or sort them into piles. This is particularly engaging for someone who has enjoyed needlework or using fabrics in the past. 
  3. Pasta threading. A classic for young children, this is also a great hands-occupier for older adults. A roll of string or yarn and a bowl of (uncooked!) penne makes a great game. Make sure the end of the string has some tape around it to make it stiff so it’s easy to pass through the pasta. 
  4. Rummage box. Stimulate memories by creating a box of items from the person’s past, or containing fun objects from yesteryear. This one can take a while to pull together but can be hugely rewarding for the older adult as it may access memories that have lain dormant for a while. Items could include dolls, maps, magazines, watches or postcards. You could also include objects that tie in to the person’s career – an office worker might have paper clips or a hole punch, for example. 
  5. Shape puzzles. These are a fun pastime and have the bonus of colour and shape stimulation, as well as allowing for the possibility of open-ended pattern creation. For some, the challenge to recreate the patterns and pictures shown in the guide book will be satisfying. Try this one here. 
  6. Scrapbooking. For elders who are capable of using scissors, a selection of magazines for them to cut out pictures is a great idea. Try to find magazines that include a reference to whatever job they used to do, or a hobby, to keep it interesting. A simple scrapbook and some glue for them to stick the pictures in adds up to an engaging activity. For those who are best without scissors, you could cut up a selection of images for them to rifle through. 
  7. Large print playing cards. THese are printed for the partially sighted but are also handy for those living with dementia as the faces are clear and easy to understand. You might consider playing a few easy games such as Go Fish or Blackjack, or even Snap. 
  8. Personalised jigsaw. You could make these by printing out a photo and laminating, then cutting into an appropriate number of shapes. Or you can get them made online very easily – try this one for a small number of large pieces that will be easy for seniors to manipulate. 

Have you got other favourite activities that work well with your older adult? Please share them with us.