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Sensory Activities in Memory Care

Learn about new approaches for sensory care in memory care facilities. Seniorly will help you discover communities that keep residents active and engaged.

By Emma Rodbro · Updated Nov 23, 2022

Research is showing that engaging the senses in individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s produces significantly positive results. In response, there is a new wave of memory care senior housing communities that are working sensory activities into residential activity schedules. 

The Research

There’s a reason you see teenagers with earbuds in their ears all the time. Music has the power to connect with your memories and emotions and make you feel less alone. Whether the individual is 17 or 75, music can be a powerful force for your senses. 

Linda Maguire, lead author of a recent study, noted, “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.” The study observed the cognitive abilities of moderate to severe dementia sufferers and the effects of singing in group music sessions on sensory stimulation. 

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America encourages the use of music with individuals who are living with Alzheimer's and other dementias that affect cognitive functioning. “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.”

Art also has the ability to allow individuals to move beyond their current place and time to another, more peaceful place of their choosing, perhaps even in their memory. “Roadblocks to verbal communication laid by dementia are bypassed through the artistic process, and individuals can express themselves through the art,” Dr. Daniel Potts said. “Concentration and attention improves, and patients are often easier to care for even when the therapy is over.”

Potts founded Cognitive Dynamics to support those with Alzheimer's and dementia who are in need of memory care after his father’s death in 2007. His father was a saw miller who displayed no artistic ability prior to the onset of Alzheimer’s. The watercolors he painted in his later years at a senior care community are now quite well known.

The Communities

A sample day at Memory Care Living in Ramsey, New Jersey, might include a relaxing concert, a sing along and a movie night featuring films from decades gone by. 

This unique memory focused community uses what they term a TOUCH system to engage residents seven days a week to give a sense of consistency and balance to their lives. 

The TOUCH program is based upon five core areas:

  • Creative and expressive
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Cognitive
  • Spiritual and emotional

Sparking creativity is one of the key components of the TOUCH program for memory care. 

Villagio at Capriana Oakmont Memory Care in Brea, Calif., makes a special effort to provide a variety of memory care options around the common areas for sensory stimulation. Music covers are strategically placed throughout the memory care community for residents to listen to stations playing familiar music, while outdoor garden areas provide natural settings for relaxation and socialization. 

The memory care community invites residents to gather in the movie theater to watch old favorites. The experience provides stimulation of memory with sights, sounds and smells as popcorn is popped. 

For those individuals who may be dealing with early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and may not need to live in a memory care community, there are other options as well. People who wish to live in an independent living community with 24-hour nursing care available will find that Rose Villa in Portland is a community providing many interesting options.

Not only do they offer a fully staffed health center, but they also offer therapy animals, music therapy and horticultural therapy for memory care. Residents participate in the horticultural therapy by tending the 2.5-acre community garden that provides fresh foods for the dining areas of the community. This and other sensory-based activities help residents with memory care needs have a better quality of life. 

Quick Facts about Memory Care Communities 

  • States with the most Alzheimer's care communities include California, Texas and Florida.
  • Private pay, long-term care insurance, Medicare and Medicaid are all options to pay for memory care.
  • Memory care communities are designed to provide residents with a safe and comfortable environment for optimal health and happiness.
  • Meaningful activities such as sensory stimulation programs, fitness and social events are built into the activities schedules at memory care communities.

If you’re looking for a memory care community for a loved one, consider one that is using some of these new methods to help keep residents active and engaged. 

Find memory care communities near you
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written by:
Emma Rodbro

Emma Rodbro

Emma Rodbro is Seniorly’s Head of Product Experience & Operations. Emma’s passion for reducing social isolation in aging populations was undoubtedly influenced by her own experience as a teenager and spending time with her grandfather. Emma went on to earn her Bachelor or Arts in Public Health and Sociology from Brown University and holds a Master’s of Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley. When she’s not at work, Emma is a volunteer at DOROT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the challenges of an aging population.
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