Activities for Memory Care Residents: Stimulating Cognitive Function

Two older adult men sitting around a coffee table and playing chess while sharing a pot of tea and cinnamon rolls

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Aging can add some challenges to some tasks, whether loved ones need assistance with activities of daily living or support for those living with dementia. Ways to live well include social engagement, keeping fit, and activities that help stimulate cognitive function, especially for loved ones living in memory care

Any activities designed for memory care residents should aim to keep the mind active, foster social interaction, and provide a sense of purpose. Activities for stimulating cognitive function in memory care residents can include:

  • Indoor activities
  • Outdoor activities
  • Physical activity
  • Social activity
  • Cognitive activities

Activities for Memory Care Residents

Compassion and understanding take center stage when caring for those with cognitive decline. However, stimulating cognitive function is also vital for maintaining a high quality of life for residents. Engaging in activities helps create an environment that fosters mental and physical well-being. 

Indoor Activities

The possibilities for indoor activities are vast and diverse for memory care residents. Indoor activities offer a safe and comfortable space for memory care residents to explore their interests and abilities while enhancing their cognitive function. 

Arts & Crafts

Creative expression through arts and crafts, such as painting, drawing, or crafting, stimulates cognitive function and provides an outlet for self-expression. Arts and crafts activities tailored to the resident’s abilities and interests can ignite creativity and promote a sense of accomplishment. 

Additionally, art projects can serve as valuable conversation starters, fostering social interactions among residents. One study showed that older adults with mild cognitive impairment who participated in an art-based intervention improved neuropsychological outcomes and reduced their rate of cognitive deterioration.


Music, with its enchanting melodies and timeless rhythms, possesses a unique ability to evoke memories and emotions. Incorporating music into daily activities can be a powerful tool for cognitive stimulation. 

Music may reduce certain behaviors common in people with dementia, such as agitation, and improve behavioral issues. Even in the late stages of dementia, music can provide a means to connect with others when verbal communication becomes challenging.

Outdoor Activities

Connecting with nature has therapeutic benefits for individuals of all ages. 


Gardening helps connect memory care residents with the natural world, fostering sensory experiences, encouraging physical activity, and promoting a sense of accomplishment as they nurture plants. 

A study about green areas and gardening in therapeutic gardens showed improvements in engagement, behavior, agitation, quality of life, stress, depression/mood, and cognition. 

Physical Activity

Physical activity is good for overall health and well-being and plays a role in stimulating cognitive function in older adults with Alzheimer’s disease

One study showed that physical activity and exercise can improve cognition in older adults with Alzheimer’s disease. Dance is another form of physical activity that can improve memory, attention, focus, and thinking in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. 

Social Activity

Social interactions are a cornerstone of cognitive stimulation for memory care residents. Group social activities in memory care can encourage residents to connect, thus contributing to emotional well-being and reducing feelings of isolation. 

These activities can include group discussions, book clubs, or themed social events that provide opportunities for meaningful conversations and shared experiences. Frequent contact through phone and video calls and letters with family and friends may help reduce cognitive decline in older adults. 

Cognitive Activities

Cognitive activities or activities for the mind can include memory games, board games, and puzzles that offer friendly competition and mental challenges, stimulate strategic thinking and problem-solving skills, and promote brain and cognitive health. Classic games can include chess, Scrabble, checkers, or card games. 

For a more personalized touch, create memory games featuring familiar faces and places from residents’ pasts. Puzzle activities exercise the mind, promote attention to detail, and offer a sense of achievement as pieces form a complete picture.

Technology-based activities, such as interactive apps designed for cognitive stimulation, can provide a modern and dynamic approach to mental engagement. Memory care can cater to community members’ diverse needs and preferences by incorporating various cognitive activities, promoting ongoing mental vitality.

Planning Activities for Memory Care Residents

Here are things to keep in mind when planning activities for older adults with cognitive decline. It can be helpful to:

  • Maintain routines
  • Match activities to an individual’s ability
  • Choose fun activities 
  • Help older adults get started
  • Provide help if needed
  • Watch for behavior changes such as frustration
  • Encourage older adults to participate
A group of older adults sitting at a table holding small flat brushes and painting, while being supervised by a medical professional

Vibrant Senior Living at Juniper Village

A well-rounded approach to cognitive stimulation in memory care involves a thoughtful blend of indoor and outdoor activities, physical exercises, social interactions, and targeted cognitive challenges. 

If you have a loved one who can benefit from memory care, contact Juniper Village at Paramus to learn more about how we create an environment that nurtures the mind, uplifts the spirit, and enhances the overall quality of life for memory care residents.

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