As we get older, it can be common for our senses to decline, which may impact on our everyday life and wellbeing. Senses help us to experience different things and create associations; from the scent of a perfume to the taste of a favourite food, they are important for maintaining wellbeing and boosting mood. The outdoors offers a wealth of sensory exploration, but during a time when it’s not possible to go out and explore, or perhaps if abilities won’t allow as much time spent outside, then it’s vital that senses are engaged in a meaningful and joyous way indoors. 

For someone living with dementia, sensory exploration can have a wide variety of benefits, from helping to spark memories to encouraging conversations and helping maintain connections. It’s therefore important that outdoor sensory activities can be brought indoors for those living with dementia in order to maintain overall wellbeing. 

What is a sensory activity?
A sensory activity is one which is designed to engage the senses in a creative yet natural way and can be incorporated into a variety of dementia activities. Examples of sensory exploring activities include cooking, creating a memory box or even making an indoor garden.

Benefits of Sensory Stimulation
Activities designed for sensory stimulation are becoming more prevalent within dementia care environments, as they can provide a whole host of benefits. Shown to improve mood, aid relaxation, encourage conversation and evoke memories of the past, sensory activities are ideal for building and maintaining connections. 

In a time when staying indoors is necessary, it’s important to maintain the benefits of sensory activities through a variety of different methods which spark connections to the outdoors and people. 

Evoke Memories
Engaging the senses in a positive way can aid in evoking memories for those living with dementia as our senses play a huge part in the ability to stir up memories. An activity which involves smelling a familiar scent, perhaps of seawater or fish and chips, whilst listening to sounds of the ocean or beach, may bring about fond memories of spending time at the seaside.

As our sense of smell is one of our strongest senses, it is closely linked to our memory, and the familiarity of a scent can transport someone living with dementia back to a fond time, evoking positive memories and boosting wellbeing.

Build and Maintain Connections
Maintaining connections with the outside world whilst spending time indoors is highly important for someone living with dementia for maintaining wellbeing; whether this is related to people or places. 

Sensory activities can be used to help strengthen and build on these connections during time spent indoors. Activities such as creating an indoor garden can bring some of the joy from outdoors in; the scents and touch of the flowers, along with the bright colours and sense of achievement gained as flowers blossom are brilliant for engaging the senses and boosting mood whilst helping to maintain natural world connections.

Utilising scents can also be a brilliant way to stay connected with someone who may not be able to visit the person with dementia right now. Taking in the scent of this person’s perfume, looking at photographs and even incorporating music can draw on past emotions and elicit memories of time spent with that person and aid in retaining connections.

Connections with people can also be preserved through activities such as building a scrapbook or memory box, filled with photographs of people or places, scents or trinkets which mean something to that person. 

Cognitive changes can sometimes result in increased anxiety or agitation which can affect overall wellbeing. Indoor sensory activities are brilliant for promoting relaxation and helping to improve mood. Playing soothing music or perhaps smelling relaxing scents of lavender which have been shown to encourage relaxation can be brilliant. 

There are many different ways to utilise sensory activities indoors which can help build and maintain connections with the outside world whilst staying indoors. Explore a variety of senses through different dementia activities to help boost wellbeing and mood for those living with dementia.

For more information head to active-minds.org/uk/