A 2022 study1 found that engaging in a favorite activity was associated with decreased depression and greater functional independence for people with dementia. 

This contemporary research highlights the importance of pursuing personally meaningful activities for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

Evidence also suggests that different types of activities may have specific benefits for seniors with dementia. These include reducing loneliness, providing purpose, and even slowing cognitive decline. 

In this article, we explore three of the most widely researched areas: the benefits of physical, creative, and social pursuits for seniors with dementia. We’ll also share some great activity ideas for your loved one!

Physical Activities
What Are the Benefits of Exercise for Seniors with Dementia?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 recommends that people over 65 get at least 150 minutes (about 2.5 hours) of exercise each week. This has been shown to preserve mobility and prevent or delay the onset of health issues like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, and infections.3 If health conditions reduce a person’s ability to exercise, the CDC recommends being as active as possible.2 

A recent review4 also found that physical activity promotes healthy aging in seniors experiencing mild cognitive impairment or dementia. It found that physical activity can improve:

  • Cognition (including executive functioning and memory) in people with mild cognitive impairment.
  • Independent functioning in people with mild cognitive impairment and in people with dementia.
  • The psychological health of people with dementia.
5 Physical Activity Ideas:
  1. Taking a stroll in the park (perhaps with a picnic)
  2. Yoga (or chair yoga)
  3. Gardening
  4. Dancing
  5. Aerobics
Creative Activities
Why Are Creative Pursuits Powerful for Seniors with Dementia?

Creative activities can have a whole host of benefits for both seniors in general and for those with dementia. Investigating the effects of art therapy on seniors, a 2022 review5 found four common themes among the literature. These were:

  1. Improving cognitive performance.
  2. Enhancing self-identity and meaning.
  3. Reducing loneliness and depressive symptoms.
  4. The importance of socialization.

These findings are supported by the Alzheimer’s Association,6, which suggests that art and music can enrich the lives of seniors with dementia at all stages. Specifically, they note that music may help reduce agitation and improve behavior, while art can support self-expression and feelings of accomplishment and purpose.

5 Creative Activity Ideas:

  1. Painting or drawing
  2. Knitting or crocheting
  3. Dancing or singing
  4. Sensory crafts (e.g., working with clay and textured materials)
  5. Playing an instrument
Social Activities
Why Is Socialization Important for Seniors with Dementia?

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland7 suggests the risks of loneliness and isolation are more profound in seniors with dementia. In a 2017 study,8 in which a large group of U.S. seniors were followed for 12 years, found that depressive symptoms and loneliness seemed to be related to accelerated cognitive decline. 

On the flip side, good social engagement has been associated with reduced disability and mortality and may also be linked to reduced depression and better brain health.9 For seniors with dementia specifically, the Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia (WHELD) program found that just ten minutes of daily social interaction can help improve overall well-being.10

Luckily, many hobbies and activities (including the ones we’ve already discussed) can be enjoyed with friends. Therefore, helping your loved one socialize could be as simple as encouraging them to participate in their favorite activities with others. 

Moreover, many social activities can be beneficial in more ways than one. For example, completing puzzles or board games may encourage cognitive activity, and reminiscing over fond memories can positively affect the quality of life, cognition, communication, and mood in seniors with dementia.11 

5 Social Activity Ideas:
  1. Reminiscing (e.g., looking through old family photo albums, watching their favorite movie, or listening to their favorite songs together)
  2. Playing card or board games
  3. Socializing with grandchildren
  4. Cooking or baking together
  5. Having a pamper session (e.g., treat them to a manicure, do their makeup, or style their hair)
When Should You Consider Assisted Living?

If you’re struggling to help your loved one with dementia engage in meaningful activities, you’re not alone. As discussed in Alzheimer’s Association’s 2024 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report,12 studies have found that caring for a senior with dementia can lead to a variety of emotional, work-related, and even physical health issues for family caregivers.

These issues could make it more difficult to find new activities for your loved one. It’s important to remember that this is a common experience and isn’t a failure. If you or your loved one are struggling, or if you feel your physical or mental health is being negatively impacted by your caregiving role, it might be worth thinking about residential memory care.

Memory Care at Saguaro Ranch Assisted Living

As a community offering both residential memory care and assisted living, Saguaro Ranch’s activity schedules are made with the needs of seniors with dementia in mind. In the sanctuary of our upscale Tuscon, Arizona ranch house, residents enjoy various therapeutic physical, creative, and cognitive activities – take a look at our last blog post to learn more!

Our caregivers are highly qualified, experienced in memory care, and committed to keeping their skills and knowledge up to date to provide the proper support for seniors with dementia. With non-invasive 24-hour supervision, residents can safely enjoy the freedom they deserve within a beautiful setting brimming with opportunities for adventure and socialization. 

Schedule a tour today to see our assisted living community at its best and speak to our care experts in person!


  1. Regier NG, Parisi JM, Perrin N, Gitlin LN. Engagement in favorite activity and implications for cognition, mental health, and function in persons with and without dementia. J Appl Gerontol. 2022;41(2):441-449. doi:10.1177/0733464821999199.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Physical activity: Older adults. Updated April 13, 2023. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm#:~:text=It%20can%20prevent%20or%20delay,better%20than%20none%20at%20all.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Physical activity: Benefits of physical activity. Updated August 1, 2023. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm#reducing-disease.
  4. Nuzum H, Stickel A, Corona M, Zeller M, Melrose RJ, Wilkins SS. Potential Benefits of Physical Activity in MCI and Dementia. Behav Neurol. 2020;2020:7807856. doi:10.1155/2020/7807856.
  5. Galassi F, Merizzi A, D’Amen B, Santini S. Creativity and art therapies to promote healthy aging: A scoping review. Front Psychol. 2022;13:906191. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.906191.
  6. Alzheimer’s Association. Art and music. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/art-music.
  7. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Dementia and loneliness. Published November, 2018. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://alzheimer.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Dementia-and-Loneliness.pdf.
  8. Donovan NJ, Wu Q, Rentz DM, Sperling RA, Marshall GA, Glymour MM. Loneliness, depression and cognitive function in older U.S. adults. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2017;32(5):564-573. doi:10.1002/gps.4495.
  9. Alzheimer’s Association. Staying mentally and socially active. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health/stay_mentally_and_socially_active.
  10. Alzheimer’s Society. Ten minutes of social interaction improves wellbeing in dementia care. Published July 27, 2018. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/news/2018-07-30/ten-minutes-social-interaction-improves-wellbeing-dementia-care#:~:text=Research%20presented%20at%20Alzheimer’s%20Association,with%20dementia%20in%20care%20homes
  11. Woods B, O’Philbin L, Farrell EM, Spector AE, Orrell M. Reminiscence therapy for dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;2018(3):CD001120. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001120.pub3.
  12. Alzheimer’s Association. 2024 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement. 2024;20(5). https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/alzheimers-facts-and-figures.pdf.