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Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on February 18th, 2014

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8 Activities to Help Stimulate Your Aging Loved One's Memory

assisted living  |  caregiver  |  activities for seniors  |  memory care  |  Aging & Caregiving

playing cardsAs your loved one ages, a reduction in cognitive ability will likely occur. Small declines and short-term memory loss are common, but you can help prevent this. The brain is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs to be exercised.

These senior memory activities can help with both long-term and short-term memory strengthening as you help your loved one keep their mind strong and sharp.

1. "I Remember When. . . "

Sharing stories from the past will enliven your loved one’s memories. You can start this activity by opening the dialogue. Think of an event that both you and your loved one experienced together, and make it one that you feel confident the other individual will remember. Then, say, "I remember when we. . . " and fill in the blanks. Just this simple conversation starter will help spark their memories.

2. Make a Scrapbook Together

Making a scrapbook together provides opportunities to reminisce about the people and events in the photographs. In addition to sparking memories, this activity will give you a chance to record, on paper, your loved one's recollections of an event. Write these down, and include them in the scrapbook. They will become a treasured memory later.

3. Name That Tune

The more senses you engage when stimulating memory, the greater success you will have. Do you know songs that were significant to your loved one? Perhaps the song your mom danced to at her wedding or the song played at an event you attended together? Play some familiar songs and have them guess the name of the tune.

4. Memory Card Game

Not all memory-building activities need to focus on memories from the past. Simply exercising the memory itself is important. The simple memory card game you enjoyed as a child is something that can help keep your loved one's memory sharp. Be patient, but have fun while you play a game together, focusing on the experience, not the outcome.

5. The Room Game

If your aging loved one is ever in the mood to play a game, play the Room Game. In a room they are familiar with, spend some time together studying the room and talking about the items inside. Then have them close their eyes and you remove something. At first, make it a large, obvious item. Let your loved one tell you what you removed, then give them the chance to do the same thing, allowing you to guess. Make the items gradually less and less obvious to exercise their memory.

Alzheimer and dementia

6. Keep a Journal

Encourage your aging loved one to keep a journal, and then spend time reading appropriate parts together. The longer you keep this practice, the more memories it will trigger. If your loved one was in the habit of keeping a journal as a younger adult, read these entries together.

7. Cook Together

Cooking is a great activity that can not only help with triggering memories, but can also engage nearly all of our five senses. Take the time to cook something together that is a family tradition, and watch while the smell and taste of the food evokes memories and encourages conversation.

8. Plant Something Together

Many of today's seniors once tended beautiful gardens. While caring for a huge garden may not be practical anymore at this stage of life, maybe you can work together to create some potted plants or a small indoor herb garden. For your loved one, getting their hands in the soil again may spark memories of their love of gardening or other lifelong hobbies.

Key Takeaways

  • When caring for an aging loved one, choose activities that stimulate past memories.
  • Reminisce together, and don't forget the importance of writing down these memories for the future.
  • Engage all of the senses.
  • Be patient and have realistic expectations.
  • If at any time your loved one becomes frustrated, move on.
  • Vary the activities to keep your loved one's mind sharp.

Alzheimer and dementia

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.