By Haley Burress United States
Sensory stimulation experiences are often easier to plan for women. However, men can benefit from sensory kits too. Here are some ideas and inspiration to get you started.
Sensory stimulation, or engaging more than one of the five senses during the same experience, has been proven to have a wide variety of cognitive and physical health benefits. Some benefits from sensory stimulation groups or 1:1 interactions can include:
There are five human senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. When you create an experience or interaction that engages more than one of those senses at a time, it is called sensory stimulation. Many Activity Professionals believe that a complete sensory experience needs to engage all five senses at once; however, this can end up being awkward and overstimulating! Try to engage 2-3 senses during an interaction; this approach seems to be the sweet spot for most residents.
Sensory stimulation isn’t just for older adults living with dementia (or just for older adults). In fact, sensory stimulation works for everyone, including on yourself. Think about it: when you have a hard day at work, you might feel more calm if you jump in a lavender scented bubble bath and listen to your favorite music. Or, you might help your child stay focused during virtual school by squeezing a stress ball and diffusing peppermint essential oil.
Almost all of us have sensory experiences multiple times throughout the day without planning it. However, older adults (especially those living with dementia or other cognitive disorders) can struggle with creating these relaxing moments on their own.
Many Activity Professionals find it difficult to plan male-centric activity groups, and the same goes for male-centric sensory stimulation groups or interactions. It’s okay if you struggle with engaging male residents in a sensory group. There are plenty of obstacles that can make sensory stimulation with men a bit more challenging:
While it is presumptuous to assume that all men will like the same things or have the same interests, or that most men will not like experiences like hand massages, you can choose to make a targeted effort at trying out male-centric sensory kits during interactions.
As with all new activities or approaches, remember that you will not hit a home-run during your first attempts. Don’t be discouraged! Keep trying, making sure you are staying as person-centered as possible.
Here are some ideas that might change how you and your male residents look at sensory experiences. Try one or a few to see how they work with your current group.
When you get to know your residents, you can plan sensory experiences based on their previous history and preferences. It won’t matter if they are male or female! However, it can be helpful to have supplies and experiences on hand that a small group of male residents may enjoy to do together. This way, you won’t be scrambling to give them a sensory experience.
I’d love to hear about any male-centric sensory experiences that work in your community, or about any sensory experience that was a surprising hit among your male residents!