Sensory stimulation with familiar scents. A fun activity for seniors and the elderly living with dementia.
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Sensory stimulation with familiar scents.


  • A metre of calico fabric of a natural colour.
  • Ground coffee, cinnamon stick or powder, dried lavender and rose petals.
  • Rubber bands and colourful ribbons.


  • Cut 4 pieces of calico 20cm long by 15cm wide.
  • Sew pieces on three sides to make squarish ‘pockets’ and leaving one side to insert chosen scents.
  • Insert each one with one of the chosen scents and close opening; first with a rubber band and then with a nice colourful ribbon. Make sure residents cannot untie them.
  • Seat residents (2 or 3 only) around a table and pass them one pocket at a time. Encourage them to remember by giving clues e.g.
    ‘It smells like something we drink in the mornings’
    ‘It smells like something we sprinkle on donuts.

Praise them for trying!

We'd love to hear your feedback!
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Catherine 2nd Oct 2018
We did this activity this morning and it was well received by our residents. Our focus today was on spices- cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and cloves. The activity provided a pleasant experience for residents and evoked happy memories of baking. It also raised giggles as those participating in the activity tried to guess the contents of the pouches from touch as well as smell.
Talita 8th Oct 2018
This is lovely to hear Catherine, what a great outcome! I'm always amazed at the power of different scents to trigger memories from the past. Love the strong scents you chose, spices are perfect for this activity!
Marilyn 11th Sep 2018
This is an excellent idea! I started putting lavender in the room for my friend. It helps whenever she resists taking the last dose meds before bed. I let her smell the lavender scent and it seems to make the task a little more pleasant for her.
Talita 17th Sep 2018
Thanks for your feedback Marilyn.
Christine 29th Aug 2018 Activities Assistant
I created a sensory theme afternoon, with essential oils burning, strawberry scented candles, lava lamps, salt lamps, electric lighting, soothing music, herbs to smell, salted dough and mystery bean bags to touch. I closed curtains to create an effect and atmosphere. Very well received and lots of nice comments.
Talita 3rd Sep 2018
I love the idea of a sensory theme afternoon!!
Sally 16th Jul 2018 Recreational Activities Officer
We had a sensory day today. The clients weren't sure to start with (high functioning) but changed there minds. As well as the range of smells to guess we had hand massages and salt dough rolling and cutting (touch)
Talita 22nd Jul 2018
Sounds like it was a lovely activity Sally! Thanks for sharing.
Pauline Jordan 9th Jun 2017
Great ideas folks. At Hortic therapy, we deliver gardening sessions to senior citizens and people living with Dementia. We do a similar session called Guess the scent. The residents are blind folded and they then get to feel and smell the real product or plant. They have 3 guesses, if after the third one it is not correct, they are given clues then the answer is revealed. Good fun and great reminiscent stories are relived.
Chime 25th Oct 2016
I have made play dough and mixed in baking flavours and colours like caramel, lavender, lemon, orange, peppermint and vanilla. They were great to make shapes from too adding a 'touch' element. I put them in separate zipper plastic bags for a 'what do they remind you of..' Reminiscence session.
I love
Talita 25th Apr 2016
That's a good tip! I remember shopping for perfume one time and being offered coffee beans to smell in between different perfumes.
chant 24th Apr 2016
We have found that fresh coffee grinds is generally a good scent to neutralize if some are experiencing overwhelming tones or aromas.

So after, let`s say smelling cinnamon, then moving on to clove, some individuals wanted to smell the coffee grinds in between each one, thus enabling them to know that the scent in between is a familiar one, that one being coffee.
Darla 19th Dec 2014 Activity and Volunteer Coordinator
Great Ideas! I have the scents alone, and snippets of materials from local fabric store, also lots of ends of ribbon, even a box of buttons.
I had not thought to combine to make them into a scent project.

Also, we can make the scent swatches during creative crafting time!

I LOVE this activity site! There are so many people out there with great ideas, and Golden Carers able to produce a website for us to share!
Joanne 28th Sep 2012 Leisure and Lifestyle Co ordinator
I did one which I used in Girl put different spices etc into the film canisters and number them...the residents then guess what you have in can also use things they can taste...icing sugar,'s amazing how the senses will lead into reminiscing.
anne 17th Jan 2011 Recreational Activities Officer
Hi, I did a scent memory session with Dementia residents. Old time smells such as Old Spice, Fishermans Friends, Lavendar Talc, 4711 Perfume!! It was great and got some old memories back the surface simply by smelling.
Gail 29th Apr 2010 activities officer
Hi, we have done something similar, but we included items that the residents have to feel. Items such as cloths pegs, coins( aussie 50c is tricky) rice , pasta etc. Things that ladies in particular, may have used at home everyday.
Joanne 25th Apr 2010 Lifestyle Worker
Thankyou Solange:) should be fun.
Solange 24th Apr 2010 Diversional Therapist
That's a great idea Joanne, this would be a perfect Mother's Day activity.
Joanne 23rd Apr 2010 Lifestyle Worker
I really like this idea and think i will use it for a Mothers Day activity, using scents a mother would be familiar with. For example Baby oil, Cuddly, Dettol and the kitchen scents like coffee and cinnamon. With liquids like baby oil etc i would put a few drops onto cotton wool and insert that into the pouches.
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