Fun in the Sun: Summer Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Summer’s almost here, and with it, all the enjoyable activities we’ve come to know and love. After last year, you’re probably ready to get out, enjoy the sun and take in as much entertainment and companionship as possible. As a caregiver to a loved one with dementia, you know that regular activities are incredibly beneficial, so it’s always a good idea to plan something summery that both of you can enjoy.

“Summer is a great time to do activities both indoor and outdoor because the weather is nice and there are plenty of outdoor things to do to engage your loved one,” says Addie Ricci, Executive Director at Bridges® by EPOCH at Norwalk. “A lot of the things we do in summer can help boost mental health for our loved ones with memory loss.”

The best activities for brain and mental health, says Addie, are ones that involve two or more senses. Favorite summertime activities like gardening, birdwatching, going to farmers’ markets and swimming are all activities that are dementia-friendly and involve all the senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

“Maintaining good mental health is incredibly important for your loved one with memory loss because it helps their overall health and well-being,” Addie explains. “Doing a fun and meaningful summer activity every day will go a long way towards reaching that happy state for them – and for you, as well.”


Fun Summertime Activities to Boost Mental Health


1. Plant a garden.

Gardening is a favorite hobby loved by many, and it can be particularly beneficial to older adults with dementia. Being outside in the sun provides a nice dose of vitamin D, which has been shown to help boost mood and even reduce some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Sunlight also helps keep circadian rhythms regulated, which helps your loved one get a good night’s sleep. Gardening is also a good form of exercise, as it combines muscle strengthening, flexibility and even a little cardiovascular boost. Gardening is also enjoyable in the sense that it’s an ongoing activity that you can see results from. If gardening from seed isn’t your strong suit, consider buying prearranged flowerpots or some small herbs that require less work but are just as enjoyable to tend.


2. Watch the birds.

Just like gardening, birdwatching is another activity beloved by many. It’s an excellent option for people with dementia because it’s neither physically or mentally demanding, and you can do it outside or inside. Buy a feeder (or make one as an activity with a loved one) and set it up in a place where your loved one enjoys sitting. You may want to get a variety of feeders to attract different types of songbirds and other animals. If your feeders attract other woodland creatures, such as squirrels, consider getting a separate feeder for them as well. Watching squirrels eat peanuts from the shell can be highly entertaining.


3. Make summertime sweet treats.

There are all sorts of delicious treats that go along with the summer sun: ice cream, popsicles, lemonade, flavored iced tea, watermelon … No surprise, a lot of these yummy foods are high in hydration. Since older adults get dehydrated and overheat much more easily than their younger counterparts, it’s always wise to make sure your loved one has plenty of drinks or hydrating, cool foods within reach. Making summer treats is a fun activity that can help with that. Churn some homemade ice cream, make your own fruit pops or flavored ice cubes or make a nice fruit salad. Of course, don’t forget other summertime favorite foods to go along with the treats, like corn on the cob, hot dogs, s’mores and other goodies.


4. Go on a picnic.

Eating outside is simply marvelous when the weather is nice. Pack a picnic basket with a light lunch, bring a blanket and some lawn chairs, and head to your favorite park – or stay in your own backyard, if that works better. Your loved one can help you prepare a lunch that’s simple and will stay fresh no matter where you’re traveling to. Simple sandwiches, fruit, cold beverages and crackers are all excellent choices for summertime snacking.


5. Watch old movies.
To be fair, the weather isn’t always nice during the summer. So, if the day is too hot or it’s raining cats and dogs, make the most of it and hold a TV or movie marathon with your loved one. Pop up some corn, grab a few delicious sweet snacks and sit down to watch a favorite funny movie or classic TV show from their childhood. Bonus points if it was a “top summer flick” from when your loved one was young, but any movie that’s enjoyable and makes you happy is a great option.


6. Visit the park.

During the summer months, local parks truly shine. With farmers’ markets, live performances, festivals and the simple fact that children are outside playing, they’re a great spot to people-watch and enjoy the sights and sounds. If your loved one with dementia is still relatively mobile and enjoys walking, choose a park that has smooth walking trails or paths that make it easy to get a little exercise while enjoying the fresh air, chirping birds and laughing children. If there’s a lake nearby, grab some cracked corn and feed the ducks (especially fun when they still have little ducklings following after them). Or, your loved one may enjoy just sitting peacefully by a fountain or pond.


7. Go on a trip down memory lane.
Summer memories from years past are some of our most beloved, and using reminiscence therapy may help your loved one recall those cherished moments from their childhood. Gather old scrapbooks from summer vacations, find some souvenirs from previous trips or make a memory box with materials that evoke a scene (like a beach). As you share your observations and memories, your loved one may be prompted to do the same. Be sure to keep a notepad handy to write down any surprising stories or memories that may occur.


Safety Tips for Summer

The health and safety of your loved one with dementia is always of utmost importance. Here are some easy tips to help you keep your loved one safe in and out of the sun.

  • Carry a tube of sunscreen with you and be sure to reapply it regularly.
  • When you’re outside, be sure that there are cool places where your loved one can escape if necessary. Avoid doing outdoor activities during the really hot times of the day.
  • Make sure your loved one is wearing proper clothing. A hat, loose clothing and sunglasses are musts.
  • Carry water with you and make sure your loved one sips it regularly. Dehydration can occur incredibly quickly during the heat of the summer. If plain water isn’t enjoyable for your loved one, consider fruit juice or other flavored drinks – just avoid ones that are too sugary or are diuretics.
  • Make sure your loved one has identification with them (like an ID tag or bracelet) so that if you do get separated, it will be easier for them and you to get help.
  • Now is a good time to call the HVAC company and make sure your air conditioning is in tip-top shape. Consider buying some fans so that there’s always air circulating when it’s warm.
  • Keep cool drinks handy and be sure your loved one takes a cool bath or shower in order to keep from overheating.


With a little bit of planning, you can create a summer filled with fun and meaningful activities for both you and your loved one with dementia.


Expert, Life-Enriching Memory Care

Bridges® by EPOCH at Norwalk provides memory care assisted living that is comfortable, positive, safe and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, our community promotes a wellness-focused lifestyle that emphasizes dignity and individual preferences. Our memory care professionals receive specialized, ongoing training designed to help residents maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – making a truly positive impact on the lives of our residents.


Inspiring Programs for All Stages

Bridges® by EPOCH at Norwalk’s services are designed to recognize and adapt to the unique challenges and individuality of each resident, while ensuring comfort and safety. We believe in a full-service approach to care and provide personalized attention and programming for residents in every stage of memory loss.


Purposeful Community Design

Within a beautiful residential design, Bridges® by EPOCH at Norwalk provides everything residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia need to enjoy comfort, familiarity and security. Soft colors, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life stations create a soothing and secure environment where residents feel at home.

Bridges® by EPOCH is New England’s largest stand-alone memory care assisted living provider.


Contact us today to learn more.

Learn More About Bridges®

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.