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Activities to Improve Cognition and Prevent Cognitive Decline

Updated: Apr 14, 2020


The best activity, by far, is aerobic exercise for 20-30 minutes 4 to 5 times per week.


However some activities may help cognition, prevent dementia, and when fun and enjoyable (often invoking activities and games from a person’s childhood), they may improve cognition and quality of life.


Some forms of Dementia actually increase creativity! See some examples below:


Visual Creativity

One of the best forms of visual activity is planning a garden and planting flowers, seeds, or trees. This also stimulates the body and brain because of the sunlight that comes from being outside. If a large planter is purchased, such as the one below, people can sit when they do this, so it is not particularly physically exerting.


Incorporating sensory experiences into gardens, such as this one in Australia is especially stimulating to the brain.



“The garden features a number of sensory components including a texture wall, water features, a gathering space, and a pick and sniff plant area.” It also includes an area to place one’s feet in sand or pebbles.







Verbal Creativity

One of my favorite activities to do is to meet with friends or family and write entries into a Memory Book, which preserves favorite memories throughout their life and can be read to them later in the disease. They are also great conversation starters.


They contain questions such as, “What were your most vivid memories as a child?” and ‘a what made your childhood neighborhood something you liked or didn’t?”


There are also books available on that website for Veterans, romantic relationships, and a person’s personal spiritual history.






Mild Cognitive Impairment

Did you know that people with Mild Cognitive Impairment are meeting all around the world for “Memory Cafes” or just social get-togethers?


Here is a list of Memory Cafes in Florida, or you can create your own.


They play a board game, poker, paint, or sculpt. They can meet in parks and use Nature as an inspiration.


As a group or as a family, I highly recommend Coloring Activities or even better, Paint by Numbers. You can find materials for these activities on amazon.com, such as these:

Click on the picture to link to the purchase.



Playing games is also a very cognitively stimulating activity. Try playing a game of poker or a board game in mild stage!


Moderate Stage Dementia

At this point, it may be difficult for people to use tools such as a paintbrush or colored pencil due to apraxia (inability to know how to shape their body to use a tool).


I recommend cutting up objects using colored paper and making scenes out of them, like a collage.


You can buy colored paper pads and cut them into houses, fruit, trees, furniture, barns, or any other scenes you can think of (landscape, fruit bowl, or almost any scene you can think of!)



In fact, Henri Matisse was a famous french artist and developed Dementia later in life. He still continued creating, and we Cognitive Neurologists believe that as the frontal lobe degenerates with some Dementia patients, their creativity actually increases!

Here are some examples by Matisse:


Someone probably cut out the paper pieces for him. Here is another example, probably as his Dementia progressed:



There are several Dementia cafes that have opened up to support this type of work. Here are some examples from these community groups:



Sculpture is another activity that may be even more stimulating for Dementia patients because it involves both visual and tactile information. In fact, creating these works of art while listening to a favorite piece of music will stimulate the brain even more. You can buy easily moldable and air-drying clay on amazon:



With favorite music or story information being read to them, people with Dementia may create sculptures such as these, and continue to model them over time by adding a bit of water.



They may need a caregiver to help with modeling the ears. They can also paint the pieces with acrylic paint.

Here is another possible example:


The presence of children or grandchildren can also inspire them, and they can do these activities together.


Putting together easy puzzles with large pieces is also a possibility:


Dancing or singing along to their favorite music is also a wonderful activity. Perhaps someone can pull up the karaoke to their favorite songs on Youtube and help the person sing to their favorite songs!


Playing games is also a very brain-activating activity. Try playing a game of Charades or Go Fish in the Moderate stage!


Severe Stage

Patients in the severe stage usually cannot remember what happened several seconds before, so may have difficulty creating objects.


However, they still are positively affected and emotionally stimulated by family, friends, grandchildren, babies, and favorite music. Try dancing with them, or dancing with them by moving their arms in their chair. Try giving them a drum or a tamborine to play while listening to music.


They can also finger paint or make sculptures, particularly if music is being played to stimulate their brain.



People with severe Alzheimer’s also really enjoy pets, like small dogs, or caring for babies. Perhaps they can pet-sit with supervision.


There is also a doll designed for people with severe Alzheimer’s so they can taking on a more purposeful, caring-for-others role. You can purchase diapers, bottles, and clothes to help them take care of the baby.



Please add more suggestions in the comments below.

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