Evidence has been building for years that connects cognitive stimulation with brain health as we age. Puzzles, games, and movies are popular ways for care partners to keep people with dementia occupied, but they appear to have little to no effect on slowing deterioration.

Meaningful activities, however, have been shown to “significantly improve quality of life, social interaction, communication, and cognitive abilities in people with dementia and, in some cases, also improve challenging behavior,” according to an article in Psychology Today.

What does that look like for people tasked with creating these activities?

First of all, cognitive stimulation involves attention. Reminiscence therapy is one way to capture someone’s attention and give attention to them by asking about their life experiences. It can include anything from favorite songs, photos, keepsakes, or favorite objects such as jewelry or apparel. Making room for the past in the present is a wonderful way to express empathy and enthusiasm for our loved ones’ lives and understand what is important to them. Inviting them, in turn, to share experiences, memories, and opinions leads them to feel a sense of worth.

Reducing simplistic activities like coloring and puzzles and asking people to participate in a group helps people feel valued, loved, and connected. It’s important to use adult terms and expectations and use the correct word to describe something, rather than treating older adults as if they were small children.

Music, poetry, short stories, comedy, and improvisation also provide cognitive stimulation. A recent study from Brazil indicated that musical activities could help prevent age-related cognitive decline. At a minimum, this kind of stimulation is highly enjoyable and allows a sense of accomplishment and belonging to those engaged in it. At best, it may prevent further cognitive diminishment.

EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ can help you create a healthier, happier environment by fostering meaningful experiences with our lifelong learning program that features familiar topics, songs, and poetry, creating recall and reflection.

EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ provides a quality curriculum for resident or member programming at assisted living communities, adult day clubs, and memory care providers. Reach us via email or toll-free by phone at (602) 418-5196.