Everyone experiences the world through the senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. These senses diminish with age, impacting lifestyle and well-being.

Sensory changes can cause problems communicating, enjoying activities, and staying connected with others. People living with dementia are especially impacted by sensory loss.

In this article we cover:

  • What are Sensory Activities?
  • Benefits of Sensory Stimulation
  • Examples of Multi-Sensory Activities
  • What is a Sensory Box?
  • 5 Sensory Box Ideas
  • 5 Ways to Create Multisensory Spaces

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Stacey Perkins 12th Nov 2020
What is a good activity for sundowners with stage 6 dementia. She constantly walks around and has a short attention span. We still have her at home and my husband is 24 hour care provider as well as a father of three little ones while i work All ideas are greatly appreciated.
Solange 12th Nov 2020 Diversional Therapist
Hi Stacey, caring for someone with late-stage dementia is very hard and I feel for you. Your husband could do with some help. Have you inquired if local authorities can assist you? Meanwhile, you can try giving her an album of family photos to peruse, laundry to fold, an old woolen pullover to unravel, vegetables to peel, dishes to wash. Keep safe.
Karen 2nd Mar 2019 Companion
I've tried having a bowl of different coloured pompoms and coloured clothes pegs. the idea is to attempt to pick up a pompom the same colour as the peg. It has to be on a tray with a lip or in a bowl because the pompoms get away. I've discovered that having just a single peg on the table (I'm doing this as one-to-one) works much better, less distraction. Usually lots of laughs as the pom pom skitters away. The exercise doesn't work as well in the evening and works best with primary colours.
Also, with 4 people and 4 balls rolling around the table top in different directions, absolute involvement and laughter. Of course I was chasing the ones that went on the floor. People did get tired fairly soon so I just quickly put them away, except for one which seemed to have disappeared until we found it hidden, tightly squeezed, in a resident's hand. :)
Solange 3rd Mar 2019 Diversional Therapist
Hi Karen, what a great activity! It is Montessori-based and ideal for 1-2-1 or small groups. Good on you for having made the activity more practical.
Stephen Walker 21st Jul 2018
I agree wholeheartedly that mental stimulation is essential to ward off dementia. I have MS and experience severe "brain fog". I am teaching myself Spanish and while my linguistic ability is not improving, my mental faculties is much sharper.
Talita 22nd Jul 2018
This is wonderful to hear Stephen! Thanks so much for your feedback and all the very best to you.
Yamilee 27th Mar 2018 Speech Language Pathologist
I am a new member and I'm enjoying reading about all these great ideas. I am especially drawn to the tactile and olfactory sensory activities as most of my clients suffer from various degrees of hearing, visual and fine motor impairments.
Thank you so much
Talita 31st Mar 2018
Thanks so much for your feedback Yamilee!
Sarah 2nd Mar 2017 Nurse
I have used small plastic lunch boxes, filled one with uncooked rice, one with water, another with scented sheets the list can go on and on, this makes the activity easier and a great 1:1 session.
Pamela LeBlanc 18th Jun 2016
I use a 20 gallon tote and put shredded paper, the strips not the cross cut paper as this causes dust and may effect people with allergies. I use clothes pins, marbles, plastic spoons, a little plastic piggy bank, small candles(like tea lites), little river rocks, even colorful small feathers. We make a game of it and give points for the items. Highest score wins and I give lil surprise bags that have sugar free candies in them like Worthers Originals (sugar free). We enjoy this as an activity. Have fun use you imagination and create themes like holidays, birthdays, or seasons.
Karen 8th Mar 2019 Companion
Sounds like you make a lot of effort Pamela. Can I come? :) Just a wee note, results recently that artificial sugars are definitely bad for folks with or at risk of Alzheimer's. I spoke with the nurses where I have clients and she said that unless there are serious diabetes problems and they are being monitored, that a single ordinary candy is okay. It's all a bit screwy anyway. The people with diabetes are supposed to watch their sugar intake but everyone gets those fruit juices full of fructose and little else.
At least while they are having fun with your activities they aren't drinking fake cranberry juice. :)
I've never personally given rewards for anything, but I've seen some of the other rec folks offer rewards for games (ie: Bingo), sometimes sweets but sometimes these are very small seasonal decorations. Dollar store packages of mini trees or bells or shamrocks, or .... Of course, it depends on whether or not your folks are likely to put it in their mouths... When I first started I took this lovely lady in late dementia the first daffodil from my garden. She looked at it, smiled at me and bit into it! Ah well, she wasn't poisoned. it's an ongoing process of discovery. So much fun!
Talita 29th Mar 2016
Thanks for the feedback ladies, this is much appreciated.
Chandani 25th Mar 2016
I found all these ideas are really great fun and I am sure my residents @ nursing home they will enjoy them Also help to refresh my knoladge and skills please send me more ideas I really appreciate your kind support
Heather 1st Nov 2015 Recreation Activities Officer
Thank you for this, I have just set up my sensory boxes from this list and really looking forward to using them with our residents. I am so excited to start this session.