Armchair Travel: A Sensory Experience for Seniors

Armchair Travel: A Sensory Experience for Seniors

Categories: Activities Articles Multicultural Dementia

Armchair Travel takes people to faraway places without leaving home. It provides a sensory experience and the opportunity to learn about exotic lands and important past events in a meaningful manner. This is a wonderful activity for seniors living in nursing homes and suitable for people with dementia.
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Armchair Travel takes people to faraway places without leaving home.

It provides a sensory experience and the opportunity to learn about exotic lands and important past events in a meaningful manner.

Related: 30+ Sensory Activities for People Living with Dementia

Start an Armchair Travel tradition at your facility! Make it a monthly event and build up expectations to this most interesting and engaging activity.

How to Plan an Armchair Travel Activity

  • Use the scheduled ‘Residents meeting’ to reveal the proposal to residents.
  • Have residents choose a country or event/documentary they would like to see.
  • Make decorations according to the country chosen.
  • Serve some food or snacks from the chosen country.
  • Get hold of some relevant music or trivia to enhance the activity.
  • Send personal invitations, especially to more introverted residents.
  • If showing YouTube videos, make sure that you can hook them up to a large TV screen.
  • Alternatively borrow videos from your local library.

Related: Multicultural Activities

How to Conduct an Armchair Travel Activity

Choose your theme by asking your clients for topics of interest or choose from generic themes such as: national parks, islands, rain-forests and even biographies of famous actors or singers.

Choose a short DVD or play YouTube videos for a maximum of one hour; preferably less if your clients have attention deficit. There are excellent short videos to be found on YouTube that are less than 20 minutes long, you may show two short videos if the response is positive.

Here are a few ideas:

  • The Taj Mahal and its history
  • The Champs Élysées
  • Castles and Palaces
  • Cities: New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid
  • The Royal Wedding of Danish Prince Frederic and Princess Mary from Tasmania, Australia

Where to Find Suitable Films and Videos

  • Look for videos freely available online. YouTube is a great resource! f you know someone who is computer-savvy, they may also be able to download suitable videos for you.
  • Purchase online (Amazon, E-Bay).
  • Borrow from Library.
  • Borrow from friends or residents’ relatives.
  • If you know someone going overseas ask them to take a 10 minute video of the place visited.

Samples of Themes & Videos to get started with:

Here are a few videos I deemed suitable, found online. Show the videos in full screen mode hooked up to a large TV for an enjoyable morning or evening.

1. Visit the beautiful Iberian Peninsula, then Morocco!

A narrated video by Raymond Kresha, featuring a group of people visiting historic sites of Portugal, Spain and then Morocco. The video runs for roughly 30 minutes. There are some pictures of the tour participants but mostly it shows stunning landscapes from the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco.

Watch: Portugal, Spain & Morocco (YouTube)

Craft: Color-in the Flags of Portugal & Spain (download below)

Serve: Look online for recipes of Pasteis de nata (Portuguese tarts) or Tapas (Spanish entrees such as small meat balls or Spanish omelet cut into bite sized pieces) or Moroccan bread cut into chunks and served with Hummus.

Trivia: Portuguese Quiz

2. The Queen’s Palaces Documentary

The Queen of England, Elizabeth II has three residences: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This is a 30 minute video on the history of the most romantic of the three, Holyroodhouse. Besides romance, there is also deceit, betrayal, and murder.

Watch: Holyroodhouse (YouTube)

Craft: Color-in the Flag of the UK (download below)

Serve: Cucumber sandwiches

Trivia: Royal Quiz

3. Seychelles Islands

A popular tourist destination, the Republic of the Seychelles is an island-country in the Indian Ocean. This video runs for 15 minutes.

Watch: Seychelles Islands (YouTube)

Craft: Color-in the Flag of Seychelles (download below)

Serve: Fried bananas (plantain)

Trivia: Island of the World Quiz

Related: Armchair Travel via Google Earth and Armchair Travel Group Game & Reminiscing

We'd love to hear your feedback.
What Armchair Travel Themes have worked well for you?

Files Included:

Flag of Spain

Flag of Portugal

Flag of Morocco

Flag of Seychelles


Joanne 22nd Sep 2016
I have also borrowed at times dvds from the local library as well as books for resources. If you go to the travel agents they sometimes have brochures that they are giving away, these can be used for collages etc on the country you are 'visiting'.
Talita 25th Sep 2016
Yes libraries can be a wonderful resource. Great tip with travel agencies, they have such beautiful brochures! Thanks Joanne.
Jacqueline 20th Sep 2016
We are lucky enough to have Apple TV through out our facility so we have armchair travel with our volunteers becoming involved and assisting to make it a great experience for our residents. We have traveled through Peru, Malta, Italy, Mexico and Holland this year. These days always spark lots of conversation between the residents about the travels they have taken in their lives. We have had residents point out the places they lived, one resident saw the street she lived in as a child. There are lots of great travel documentaries on YouTube.
Talita 25th Sep 2016
Ah your residents are certainly lucky, this sounds great! Yes there are so many wonderful travel documentaries to be found on YouTube aren't there! Thanks for your feedback Jacqueline.
Darla 15th May 2016
Thank you Albert for the site. This one will be used in our facility.

Nice work on the English history from you tube and ideas of sandwiches and Royal Trivia for Queen Victoria Birthday at the end of May.

Great ideas! Love this Activity site.

Talita 16th May 2016
Thank you Darla! Your feedback is much appreciated.
sana khan 7th May 2016
thank you for this.
Albert 7th May 2016
Nowadays armchair travel web-sources are better than books.
Try for example
A lot of travel videos from all over the world.
Stephanie 5th Aug 2015
We have enhanced dining once a month ..decorate, music, and menu??? Any ideas for September????
SUSAN 1st Jul 2015
Donna, we have also been able to use aspects of the Armchair Travel on a much smaller scale. For example, when a resident comes into a lodge from another culture, it can be a useful way of introducing them into their new environment, by sharing something of their cultural heritage through Armchair Travel sessions. This also serves to transition the resident into their new home.
Donna 27th Jun 2015
Sounds amazing. Will definately look into this.
Vicky 21st Oct 2014
Thanks Wendy will look forward to obtaining these DVD.
Wendy 19th Oct 2014
sorry it took so long to get back to you Patricia as i had to borrow them again its discovery ATLAS DVD collection volumes 1-10 discovery channel Australia, Italy, China, France, Brazil, India, Egypt, Japan, South Africa,& Russia narrated by famous people ...wendy
Alyson 7th Oct 2014
I started up Armchair Travel at a facility, we also had passports for participants & they loved them
patricia 26th Aug 2014
Hi Wendy do you know what the name of the DVDs were that you borrowed?
Wendy 26th Aug 2014
my daughter is a primary teacher and we borrowed there set of travel DvD'S for our nursing home; they were easy and more informative for the residents to follow then ones we got from the library
patricia 20th Aug 2014
Thank you so much Susan. It sounded like an amazing month of getting ready.
Having that many Lifestyle staff must have a huge impact on the activities you can offer.
SUSAN 20th Aug 2014
Hello Patricia; the lead up to the actual travel week was about 4 weeks; most of the activities were developed during work hours, and indeed many of the residents helped during craft sessions to decorate their lodges, make leis etc. Things like word-search etc were available on google image under word hawaii. New music sessions are developed regularly anyway, and the Volcano was the first experiment in our Science for Seniors program. It does help having the equivalent of 10 full-time Leisure & Lifestyle Coordinators in addition to myself; so the ideas really flow.
patricia 13th Aug 2014
I am very interested in this activity. I would like to know how much time Susan and the other lifestyle team spent in the preparation of this activity. Was it all done in work hours?
Janet 28th Jul 2014
Sounds wonderful. I am looking forward to discussing it at work tomorrow .
Maria 10th Jul 2014
instead we can use a trip to & not armchair
Maria 10th Jul 2014
I saw this add in a magazine and tried to use for the facility I'm working for and the DDON who lifestyle reports to didn't agreed.
I liked and I'm all for who can used.
SUSAN 8th Jul 2014
We have completed Armchair Travel to Hawaii, and what a wonderful trip we had. We are a large aged care facility so were able to divide activities between Leisure & Lifestyle Coordinators, each responsible for a different aspect: music expression; cooking; Hawaiin pamper session (coconut & pineapple taste); even a working volcano, built, tested and demonstrated before doing the rounds (mentos and coke version) and hula hands to My Little Grass Shack. Craft activities centred around making hula skirts and leis. I still have the music of My Little Grass Shack running through my head every day. What a trip it was. Susan Rolfe, Lifestyle Manager
Carol 28th May 2013
Has anyone any ideas for activities to do with india
Madeleine 29th May 2013
You could show the movie The Best Ever Marigold Hotel. It's long but very good and very authentic. Cooking some indian cakes or food or making lassi drinks. Perhaps some dance routines from Bollywood movies, they are always fun to watch.
Christine 29th May 2013
On an activity to do with India, I have done an Indian cooking class. I am Indian, so that's an advantage... Or you can buy packets of frozen samosas and buy bottled chutney and serve. I made vegetable fritters in chickpea batter and also fried potato and eggplant in the same batter. The entire facility was spiced up! I discovered one resident had lived in Pakistan as a missionary for four years and she knew all the spices I was using. I brought in my spice container and passed around the spices in small bowls for everyone to touch and smell. It was a cold afternoon so the spicy food drew in a crowd. If you have Indian staff members, ask them to help or to source Indian snacks.
Anjanie 30th May 2013
You can have a cultural day where everyone can were an out fit from India. Play Indian music, show some bollywood dancing video , have pictures of the various famous places in India e.g Taj mahal posted and share some history.
carol 5th Jun 2013
armchair travel with an Indian themed lunch, also if you have Indian staff they could wear their saris to work, we have done this for Indian and Sri Lankan themed days
Lynette 4th Jul 2013
hi carol,we had an indian boy doing his placement with us at the time and he made and indian rice pudding that was not spicy and tasted really good. we had taste testing samples of indian finger food,,also he shown us a turban that the men wear in India and unravelled it. we were so suprised how long a turban is. the fabric went for many metres long , the turbans were wrapped on a few willing residents heads and we took lots of pictures ,,we all asked lots of questions while he was dressing us up in turbans,,,Very interesting


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