The Benefits of Sensory Activities with the Elderly

Sensory activities are activities which stimulate our 5 senses – namely vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste.

 

If you had the chance to sit and watch the heart-warming Channel 4 programme entitled “Old People’s Home for 4 Year-Olds ” (October 2018), which has two series in different residential homes for the elderly, then you will be familiar with the idea that activities – and especially sensory activities – can be beneficial to individuals on both ends of the age range.

 

The programmes highlighted the fact that sensory play is well-known to not only help young children develop all sorts of skills, from fine motor control to language refinement and improvement of their memory but can also be of great benefit for the mental and physical wellbeing of the elderly members of society.

 

It is generally less well-known that elderly people can also benefit from sensory activities. Although the content of the activity may sometimes need to differ – e.g. children might enjoy playing with Play Dough while older people might enjoy baking or making cookies, certain activities can be identical – e.g. listening to music and dancing, playing with puzzles, doing arts and crafts. The benefits are the same to both age groups.

 

Indeed, more studies have been conducted on the extreme end of the memory spectrum, namely dementia patients, but even people who are completely sound in their mind will often benefit from engaging their senses in ways that they don’t usually do. This was clear from the participants in Channel 4’s televised study, which found marked improvements in all the residents’ mental and physical states, as a result of interaction with the nursery children and participating in sensory activities with them.

 

A study on sensory activities for dementia patients found that looking at pictures and listening to music from their childhood days calmed them whilst they tapped their feet to the music and shared stories of their past as they went through the pictures. Participating in sensory activities resulted in a reduction of verbal agitation and physical agitation such as pacing.

 

Residents with severe dementia may not necessarily gain much benefit from sensory activities involving conversation, but silent sensory activities involving touch such as feeling a familiar fluffy, soft textured item, or vision such as looking through a photo album or magazine, or taste such as having a treat, may bring a smile to their face and help them to feel secure and calm.

 

Stimulate hunger in residents. It is well-known that many elderly people struggle to feel hungry at mealtimes or to be excited about food and anything which stimulates hunger or the desire to eat will, therefore, help combat malnutrition.
Examples of sensory activities for elderly people can include:

 

• Listening to and moving to music
• Playing musical instruments
• Getting a massage or having manicure and pedicure pampering treatments
• Spending time with pet animals
• Spending time with young children
• Going for nature walks or strolls
• Arts and crafts and making things – such as creating a collage or making a scrapbook
• Gardening
• Cooking

And many, many more.

 

Remember that activities which engage more than one of the five senses at a time can benefit a wide cross-section of residents and not just those with dementia.

 

At Paxton Hall, as well as occasionally inviting local parents and children to our residential care home to spend time with the residents, we also have a wide range of activities and entertainment available. These include a sensory courtyard garden, arts and crafts sessions, reading mornings, musical session and entertainment, gentle chair exercise sessions and visits by local pet therapists. If you are looking for specialist dementia care homes in Cambridgeshire, please be assured that all of our staff are trained to provide dementia care in a person-centred way.

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962307/

The Importance of Sensory Play for Early Years