We are seeing increasing use of sensory activities in care home environments. As a result, we can see clear improvements in mental health, socializing, and mood.
Dementia care has long used familiar scents to boost memories. Because our sense of smell is the strongest sense, it can immediately transport us back to earlier days that we might remember from our youth. This can be even more effective when partnered with familiar sounds.
Here are some of the key benefits of using sensory activities for older people:
When starting conversations with the elderly, reminiscing about old memories can be a fantastic way to start the flow. For those with dementia, however, this is not so easy because their ability to recollect memories is challenged.
By bringing in the senses, you can help engage their memories because the senses play a vital part in creating them. The sound of seagulls and waves crashing on the shore, or the smell of fish and chips, could transport them back to their childhood holidays.
Building up a memory box with sensory items that are personal to the individual can really help them to recall their memories, especially if a loved one helps them explore them.
Sparking the excitement from older relatives by giving them visual stimulation can really help boost their memories. You can supply them with color tubes to flip and watch the colors fall into the water or tie colorful ribbons to their wrists to sway when they lift their arms up and down.
For the less mobile, you can use a color therapy DVD to watch or create a light show for them to look forward to each week.
For older people who are very agitated or stressed by their memory loss, sensory activities can also help them to calm down. Listening to soothing music, or smelling a familiar scent, can really help to have a calming effect and bring on feelings of relaxation that will reduce that agitation.
You can introduce the other senses in so that the process can be even more effective. Sight and sound combined together are known to produce the best results. A great way of combining these together is to be around nature, such as visiting a local park, garden, or greenhouse. The visual sight of the plants, together with the smell of the flowers and the buzz of bees, is a wonderful way to unwind in a natural environment. This, in turn, reduces anxiety and has a positive impact on overall mood.
Our social connections can lessen as we get older, especially as we find it harder to communicate as well as we did in the past. This reduction in socialization can bring with it feelings of loneliness that leads to the person withdrawing and having a lower mood. This is why improved communication and localisation should both be considered when choosing activities.
Activities that help people to reminisce can be a great way of sparking new conversations. As memories are recalled, your relative may become more open to talking about the cherished things they have uncovered from the past.
Choosing a film to watch together, going for walks in nature or dancing to a special song together can really help to improve socialization.
Often our older community does not feel as connected to the world as they once were, especially for those who either have dementia or mobility restrictions. They may feel that the outdoors is less accessible now that they are older, but it is so vital that they are still able to find a way to build a connection with the natural world.
To build connections indoors, try to play seasonal sounds and introduce smells from nature, like cut grass or flowers. When taking relatives outside, you can simply set up a safe space for them to sit outside, listen to the wildlife and get some fresh air.
Stimulating the senses via a range of activities can have so many benefits for older people, such as building connections, calming an anxious mind, improving cognitive function, and helping them to remember old events. Therefore incorporating sensory activities into a care plan is an important factor to remember.
Jenny Han works as a health and wellness writer for Write My Coursework Service. She specializes in writing about Sensory Activities and also edits a range of articles online.