Sensory Stimulation Activities for Seniors
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Sensory Stimulation Activities for Seniors

Sensory Stimulation Activities for Seniors

We all know how stumbling on a favorite memory arouses our senses and brings recollections from the past rushing to the present. The moment can be so vivid that it sometimes seems almost as real as it did when we first experienced it. 

You catch a whiff of a certain perfume from a stranger in a crowd, and the memory of a long-forgotten romance makes you smile. You find a playing piece from your favorite childhood board game in the bottom of the kitchen drawer and are suddenly a kid again. The melody of a summer song transports you back in time to the seashore with your friends frolicking in the sun. 

This type of reminiscence through accessing sense memories is a normal experience, but for people with dementia and other cognitive difficulties, it can be highly beneficial. That’s why Town Square incorporates sensory stimulation as one part of our holistic reminiscence therapy services for our members.

Cognitive abilities dwindle as we get older

As we age, our cognitive abilities naturally decline. The most important change is the decreasing ability to perform cognitive tasks that require a quick process of information to make a decision. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of cognitive decline in older adults, which increases with age.

At age 65, less than five percent of the population has a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but that number soars to more than 40 percent beyond age 85. And the U.S. population is living longer. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is projected to skyrocket over the next 30 years, increasing from 43.1 million in 2012 to 83.7 million in 2050.

Can you improve your cognitive abilities?

Emerging evidence indicates that wholesome lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and participating in cognitively stimulating activities may improve cognitive function in older adults with normal cognition and potentially improve those who have signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

What is reminiscence therapy?

Reminiscence therapy is a clinically-backed psychosocial method in dementia care that uses physical props such as photographs and other tangible objects along with music and sound to help participants recall memories from their past. Town Square Perry Hall is an innovative adult day care founded on the latest research in reminiscence therapy and memory care, incorporating sensory stimulation. Set in a replica of an ideal mid-century small town, Town Square contains 12 storefronts with themed activities designed to evoke memories of a familiar past, which can improve mood and provide a sense of well-being.

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What is sensory stimulation?

Sensory stimulation is a developing technology that uses everyday objects and other stimuli to trigger one or more of the five senses. Sensory stimulation can include music therapy, aromatherapy, rhythmic stimulation, light therapy, multisensory stimulation, and virtual reality-assisted therapy. Pioneering results show that sensory and multisensory stimulations can improve the pathology of Alzheimer’s, arouse memory, and improve cognition and behaviors, as well as enhance brain plasticity.

What are sensory activities for older adults?

Reminiscing with your peers can have positive emotional and mental benefits for older adults, as the many high school reunion groups on Facebook full of vintage images and fond recollections will attest. For seniors who experience memory loss, recollections from our formative years often evoke happy feelings of simpler times. Listening to hits from the past, watching classic films, and playing well-loved board games conjure up warm feelings of a shared history.

What sensory stimulation activities are good for seniors with dementia?

Town Square Perry Hall uses sensory stimulation activities incorporated into its various storefronts to arouse positive memories for today’s seniors whose formative years were in the mid-century, between the ages of 15 – 30. Based on the pioneering work of the late research scientist Dr. George G. Glenner and his eponymous Alzheimer’s Family Centers, Town Square offers an immersive and creative approach to reminiscence therapy for individuals who are experiencing the normal effects of aging, as well as those who live with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Various dynamic sensory stimulation activities are offered each day for members and their caregivers.

Sensory stimulation activities for dementia:

  • Town Square’s Glenner Park is a relaxing area where members can sit on a park bench and read the newspaper, socialize, or take a short stroll in a safe and familiar location.
  • A gentle hand massage can encourage a relaxation response and help those with dementia reduce agitated behavior. It improves circulation, reduces muscle tension and cortisol levels, and relieves arthritis pain.
  • Spa treatments for people living with dementia can include manicures and pedicures with aromatic lotions and soothing music playing in the background. Aroma massage with acupressure can enhance cognitive training in reducing the severity and distress of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.
  • Depending on the stage of dementia, reading aloud focuses attention on the written word. Sometimes just flipping through the pages of a favorite book or magazine can boost your loved one’s mood. Hearing a story read out loud fosters imagination.
  • Reminiscing over meaningful experiences can be rewarding for people with dementia who enjoy entertaining and telling stories. In a group setting, friends with similar memories can create vibrant shared experiences and form an encouraging community of peers.
  • The sense of touch soothes and stimulates loved ones with dementia, and the distinct ridges and rough edges of objects like seashells hold a particular fascination in the hands of the elderly.
  • From woodworking to making jewelry, craft projects provide a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction and give a new purpose to life.
  • Creating a memory box for loved ones with dementia can trigger fond memories and feelings of comfort. A good memory box should include objects that stimulate all five senses:

Sight

Sight

photographs and magazine clippings that visually evoke familiar faces and events

Sound

Sound

a meaningful song or a windup music box

Smell

Smell

a sensual soap or distinct perfume

Sight

Sight

photographs and magazine clippings that visually evoke familiar faces and events

Sound

Sound

a meaningful song or a windup music box

Smell

Smell

a sensual soap or distinct perfume

Taste

Taste

flavorful candies or cookies and snacks

Touch

Touch

a favorite possession or cherished knickknack

Taste

Taste

flavorful candies or cookies and snacks

Touch

Touch

a favorite possession or cherished knickknack

What are the benefits of sensory stimulation activities?

Stimulating the senses in the elderly offers rich mental and emotional benefits, such as greater restfulness at night, less agitation during the day, and an improved feeling of well-being and happiness. Seniors who experience memory loss can grow impatient and confused. They become frustrated at their inability to perform simple tasks that once came easily. 

As our short-term memory becomes less dependable as we age, the memories from our formative years stay strong and form a sanctuary from which to view the world. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss, Town Square Perry Hall is a vibrant refuge that offers less stress, more joy, and a better quality of life.

To learn more about how sensory stimulation helps improve our members’ quality of life, contact us or schedule a free tour today.

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