12 Engaging Activities for Seniors with Dementia: Reduce Agitation and Boost Mood

activities for seniors with dementia

Engaging activities help seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia

Everyone needs to feel engaged and entertained. Just because someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t mean that need disappears.

Because of their cognitive decline, how seniors get that engagement may have to change. 

Activities with no right or wrong are highly recommended because they’re fun, satisfying, and give a much-needed sense of accomplishment. 

These type of activities can also be an effective alternative to using medications to reduce agitation, challenging behavior, and unhappy moods. 

We share a dozen recommendations from a geriatric nurse practitioner who’s experienced in dementia care.

Ann Kositsky, a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner at ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, showed dozens of activities for seniors with dementia. For years, she’s used them to reduce anxiety, distract from challenging behavior, and bring joy to people with cognitive impairments.

We share 12 of her recommendations here.



These are more than simple children’s toys

Don’t be misled or discouraged by the appearance of these activities. Some may have been made for children, but the way older adults experience them is completely different.

For example, a toy tool box might allow dad to safely recreate happy memories of the home repairs he made to keep the house in great shape. A Saturday Morning Post puzzle could take your spouse back to their childhood. The singing puppy gives warm hugs and its cheerful song brings a smile to anyone’s face and will likely have you spontaneously clapping and singing along.

Even though these activities have been stereotyped and marketed as children’s toys, don’t let that stop you from offering them to your older adult. If an activity engages them, brings joy, and reduces challenging behaviors, who cares what the label says?


12 engaging activities for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s

activities for seniors with dementia

1. $8 Melissa and Doug 7-piece tool puzzle
This 7-piece puzzle has a variety of chunky, easy-to-grasp tools.


activities for seniors with dementia

2. $12 Color and shape puzzle
This is a colorful and fun puzzle with easily identifiable shapes and images.


activities for seniors with dementia   

3. $16 Cat hardcover book
This hardcover book has thick, easy-to-turn pages and large beautiful pictures of all kinds of cats.

4. $17 Dog hardcover book
This hardcover book has thick, easy-to-turn pages and large beautiful pictures of all kinds of dogs.


activities for seniors with dementia

5. $12 Wooden 24-piece tool box kit
This 24-piece set includes wooden tools, nails, screws, nuts, and bolts.


activities for seniors with dementia

6. $15 26 Pack Sensory Fidget Toys
This set includes 26 simple, touch-based activities that keep hands and minds busy in safe, soothing ways. Fidget toys are especially helpful for someone who’s anxious, pulls at their clothes, wrings their hands, or picks at their skin.


activities for seniors with dementia

7. $17 Vintage Saturday Evening Post 6-piece puzzles
These lovely 6-piece puzzles are replicas of vintage prints from the Saturday Evening Post magazine, a staple in many households when seniors were young.

8. $18 Vintage Saturday Evening Post 12-piece puzzles
These lovely 12-piece puzzles are replicas of vintage prints from the Saturday Evening Post magazine, a staple in many households when seniors were young.


activities for seniors with dementia

9. $20 Deluxe latches board
This well-crafted board is brightly colored and has polished metal locks, latches and clasps. Each door opens to has a fun picture.


activities for seniors with dementia

10. $19 Plastic nuts & bolts set with 64 pieces
These brightly colored plastic nuts and bolts provide hours of safe fun. You can attach and detach the nuts and bolts or sort by color or shape.


activities for seniors with dementia

11. $29 My Little Puppy singing plush puppy
This soft, cuddly puppy is 10″ tall and sings “If You’re Happy And You Know It.” The best part? It claps hands and ears along with the song! Batteries included.


activities for seniors with dementia

12. $94 Lock Box memory game
This is a well-built hardwood box with with 3 separate compartments, 10 doors, and 10 different latches. For extra fun, put snacks or small keepsakes inside the box for your older adult to discover.


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Circles Disability Support


All prices quoted were checked shortly before publication, but prices and availability change often and might not match what is found online. This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products for the sole purpose of making a commission. Product recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


  • Reply December 27, 2018

    Helen Press

    I was hoping someone could help me. My dad likes to use his strength to try and move things like the kitchen table and the door frames plus the kitchen cupboards. I am seeking help with strength based activities please. He also loves to fiddle and my mum doesn’t like him touching her nice things that are around the house. I know it’s easier to remove them but she won’t at this stage. Thank you.

  • Reply December 19, 2018


    The lock box looks great but i am concerned that the other items are quite childlike.

    • Reply December 21, 2018


      I understand your concern. Each person with dementia is different and the most important consideration is how they feel about an activity. If they like and enjoy it, then how others may perceive it isn’t important. However, if the person doesn’t like the activity, then it’s not right for them at this stage of dementia. As dementia progresses, people’s tastes and preferences often change. It can be worthwhile to revisit things that have been tried in the past.

  • Reply June 26, 2018

    Chriss Martorelli

    What if my husband, who has mild cognitive impairment, is very lazy, shows no interest in anything but TV (mostly reruns) and refuses any physical activity. Now he is oxygen which limits him even more. He was told to do minor exercises, brain puzzles on the computer, but acts like it is all too hard. ?His only interest is eating and he weighs over 300 lbs.

    • Reply June 27, 2018


      This is definitely a challenging situation. Sometimes it can be really tough for someone with cognitive impairment to do activities that we see as simple. It’s possible that he needs less complex puzzles or activities so he will feel successful and not feel frustrated or anxious. If he feels like he’s failing, that may be one reason why he refuses to do anything at all. Watching TV, especially shows that he’s seen before, may be easier for his brain to process. Physical activity can be difficult for someone who is overweight. Starting slowly and just doing a tiny bit of activity and building up little by little may help — even just walking around the house once or twice can be a good start. Maybe serving meals or snacks in another room would get him to walk at least a little bit.

      • Reply November 20, 2018

        Catherine McDermott

        Could also be depression. Lack of energy or desire to do anything is often a very common sign of depression in men and over eating is a way of self medicating. You should have him seen by his PCP or a psychiatrist to have him evaluated.

  • Reply June 16, 2018


    We’re new with this horrible disease. My Husband biggest disappointment in life is that he always has been our Designated Driver. Mainly because he loves to drive And always enjoyed taking drives just about anywhere & everywhere. He never even let me drive. I have to add that I was always put down by him if I drive with him in our car. In other words-he makes me feel like I am a teen who is about to take the Driving exam! Yes, he’s always the real Backseat Driver. I’m scared & nervous to be behind the wheel when he’s in the car yelling at me. His disease hasn’t changed his rage while I’m driving. Note: I’ve never had an accident, or complaints from anyone else concerning my driving. He truly wants to continue to drive. There’s No Way that he could drive while he’s alone in the car mainly because he’ll forget his keys, his direction, or lock himself out-or in. What can I do to get thru to him that we can drive in the car as long as I- or someone else drives!??? Thank you for any help you can give me! Barbara

  • Reply May 15, 2018

    Aunt Gracie

    Old issues of SI are handy for engaging the aging sports buff. I always enjoy hearing about the Raiders in the ’60s, the year Tommy Aaron won the Masters, etc

  • Reply March 27, 2018

    James Conley

    I’ve worked in memory care for many many years. I have used hundreds of activities over the years. The key is that each person is different, oh some may like a lot of the same kind of activities in general but there’s always that one thing that completely engages that person, the trick is to find it. Ask families, read history and don’t give up until you find it!

  • Reply February 25, 2018

    Valarie Gaylord

    I think I’ll check out my day care toys and set some on mom’s table, see what she gravitates to. At this point suggesting or modeling isn’t working, but maybe if I just leave them out, she’ll engage in one. Thanks for the great ideas!

    • Reply February 25, 2018


      That’s a fantastic approach!! Maybe she’ll feel more free to try things out that way 💜

  • Reply January 3, 2018

    Jean Skolfield

    My husband who has dementia recently spent two weeks in a Transitional Care facility after five days in thee hospital. One activity he seemed to enjoy and always got him engaged was batting a balloon back and forth. A cheap and fun activity.

    • Reply January 3, 2018


      That’s a fantastic, fun activity! Thank you for sharing! Batting the balloon is also a great way to work on those upper body muscles too 🙂

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