Ways to Help a Senior with Alzheimer's Connect with Nature

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 12, 2021
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When you are the caregiver for a family member who has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, one goal you might have is to help them feel productive and empowered. As the disease robs people of their abilities, it can be a challenge for loved ones to find ways to protect their self-esteem.

Studies show that connecting seniors who have dementia with nature allows for meaningful interactions. Other research finds that green spaces support personhood and a feeling of active citizenship for people with a memory impairment. This field of research is increasingly being referred to as “green dementia.”

If you are looking for ideas you can use at home to promote engagement with nature on a regular basis, we have some for you to explore.

Nature and Activities for Adults with Dementia

  • Bird watching: Bird watching indoors or out can be engaging and soothing for people with dementia. Depending on the stage of your loved one’s disease, together you could create bird watching journals. Take pictures of the birds you find, print them out, and add them to your personal bird book. If you aren’t familiar with common varieties of birds in your area, sites like All the Birds from The Cornell Lab and Audubon hosted by the National Audubon Society might be useful.
  • Walking: This idea offers a great combination of physical and mental health benefits. Walking helps with everything from building endurance to promoting core strength. If your senior loved one is able, you could explore local parks that have nature trails. Most offer maps with trail length and accessibility for those with mobility challenges. One suggestion before you start walking is to invest in a GPS bracelet or pendant. In the event the two of you are separated, it will allow you to quickly reconnect.
  • Gardening: The benefits of creating and tending to a garden when a person has dementia are well documented. It’s an activity that nurtures the body, mind, and spirit. Growing a garden also allows the senior to feel a sense of accomplishment. From container gardens to a raised bed, there are a variety of options to consider. These tips on safe gardening for seniors with dementia might be useful.
  • Farmer’s Market: Another way to enjoy being outdoors together on a summer day is to head out to your local farmer’s market. You can buy fruits and vegetables to add to your favorite meals, as well as flowers, ice cream, and other fun treats. Farmer’s markets in smaller cities might be less hectic and better for an adult with dementia. Don’t forget to layer on sunscreen, bring your own tote bags, and wear your most comfortable shoes!

As is true of most life enrichment activities for people with dementia, it’s important to focus on enjoyment rather than achievement. For example, let’s say your goal one afternoon is to spend time bird watching and identifying the feathered friends you encounter. If your loved one’s attention is diverted by children swimming in a nearby pool, however, let them enjoy it instead of trying to force them to get back on track whenever possible.

Sunrise Reminiscence® Neighborhoods

At Sunrise Senior Living, we know the essential role life enrichment programs play in the lives of adults with dementia. Each of our memory care residents is assigned a personal Life Enrichment Manager (LEM). The LEM gets to know the resident and their interests and uses that knowledge to help the senior live purposeful days. Call (888) 434-4648 to schedule an in-person or virtual tour of a Sunrise memory care program near you!


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