With spring in the air and summer on the way, what better time to take advantage of getting outdoors in the fresh air? The good news is many indoor activities for people with dementia can be taken outdoors with little or no adaptations needed. There are a wealth of new activities that you can also plan for and even do with spontaneity when the weather is fine. Going for a walk, organising an outdoor exercise class or simply having lunch outside can give those living with dementia a refreshing change of scenery, a chance to remember past times or simply experience the sun on their face and the breeze in their hair.
Outdoor activities can also present a distraction for challenging behaviours, as well as being enjoyable, an opportunity to introduce new hobbies, exercise or allow for messier activities than you would take on indoors.
Top Tip: Set your activities to hit the sweet spot in terms of length, difficulty and detail.
What Types Of Activities Work Well?
There are a number of outdoor activities in Newcastle and the surrounding area that those with dementia and those providing home care services can undertake together. Options could include:
- Visiting a therapeutic garden – gardens or rural walking areas such as the Lionmouth Rural Centre in County Durham can offer exercise opportunities with easily manoeuvred walkways, bird feeders and eye level interest for those in wheelchairs. Rest areas with the chance to be amongst nature and wildlife could provide a soothing time for those with dementia.
- Creating a mini garden – this doesn’t need to be big or require hard physical labour. Create hanging baskets or small planters which you can bring back indoors or leave out, with many items available via mail order for those not able to drive. A tactile and rewarding activity that can last beyond planting day with the enjoyment of watching your creation grow, can provide enjoyment even for those not previously interested in gardening. With a great variety of fruits and vegetables that can be grown easily in small spaces, this can become a favourite outdoor activity
- Taking the inside fun outside – Chair aerobics, board and card games and musical games can be even more fun outside. A simple game of eye spy with new areas of interest can help those living with dementia to remember words and spark memories.
- Getting Messy – Outdoors is the ideal space to indulge in creative arts, as glitter and paint are never such a mess when used outdoors. Tactile play such as cornflour silk is ideal to meet the sensory needs that some people living with dementia crave.
- Walk a dog – Living with dementia can be isolating for many, and yet taking a walk for no reason leaves them feeling something is missing, so why not volunteer to walk a local dog for a friend or neighbour or have one visit for time in your garden.
There are many outdoor opportunities to relate activities to the life and interests of those living with dementia. Those providing dementia care at home may find even a trip to see a bus they used to catch or to walk through the park where their children played can stir memories and broaden conversation. Activities that match their ability to cope with people, space and physical levels are all an important aspect of the planned and unplanned activities you should find. Even carrying out small jobs such as tidying the garden, washing low-level windows or helping to layout an afternoon tea party may be appropriate.