My grandmother’s favorite season was spring. When I was little, she would always tell me that spring was a time of inspiration, when the world seems to breathe new life, hope, and a little bit of magic into the world. As a kid, I truly felt that magic because my grandmother taught me to admire spring’s beauty—from the bright blooming flowers to the newly hatched baby birds snuggled safely in their nests. As I got older, however, I lost sight of a lot of the simple things that make the season so special, perhaps because my grandmother no longer remembers to remind me.
In the past few years, however, I’ve felt the need for a little more magic in my life, and I can tell my grandmother does too. Since she was diagnosed with dementia last year, I’ve realized how important it is to remind her of the things she used to be passionate about. So this year, I decided that she and I would honor spring by doing some fun crafts together.
If you have an aging loved one who is living with dementia, doing crafts with them is a great way to help them engage their minds and express themselves creatively. So, in celebration of the season, I’ve put together a few fun, simple, and beneficial spring crafts for seniors with dementia inspired by those I did with my grandmother.
Fresh, Fun Ideas for Spring Crafts for Seniors with Dementia
There are so many great spring craft ideas out there. A quick search on Pinterest will pull up hundreds of ideas for intricate egg painting, Easter wreaths, and pom-pom bunnies. But for aging adults with dementia, it is a good idea to choose craft ideas that are simple so that they are able to relax and enjoy the process of creating while reaping the many benefits of artistic expression.
Here are a few very simple, yet very satisfying spring craft ideas for seniors with dementia:
- Coloring: A few years ago adult coloring books became all the rage—and for good reason. Doing a simple task like coloring has been shown to put the mind in a meditative state, relaxing the brain and taking the focus off of oneself. And since meditation increases brain connections and slows brain degeneration, coloring could be a great activity to do not just in the spring, but throughout the year. Find your aging loved one a beautiful coloring book with mandalas or cheerful spring scenes, or simply do a quick search online and print off a few pages you think they’d like. Pick up some markers or pencil crayons, pour them a nice cup of tea, and let them get creative!
- Fun with food: Baking is a great way to get your aging loved one engaged and involved–and who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked cookies? Choose a fun, spring-themed treat that is simple to prepare. Birds nest cookies are a perfect choice, not only because they are cute and colorful, but they are very simple to prepare for seniors with limited dexterity. Your loved one will enjoy decorating the little chocolate nests and filling each one with colorful mini eggs. Just be sure that you enjoy making this edible craft together and be safe around the oven.
- Sculpt: Creating shapes and figures out of modeling clay or playdough is something that many of us loved to do when we were kids because it ignited our imagination. Using one’s imagination is equally important in old age too, as it increases mental flexibility, allowing us to imagine new ways of being and creative ways of solving problems. The act of squeezing and shaping the clay or playdough can also be a great stress and tension reliever, sort of like a stress ball, helping your loved one relax and release any negativity they are experiencing. For a springy twist on sculpting, try making fresh playdough together with your loved one and dye it pretty pastel shades. Then, together with your loved one, get busy creating spring flowers like daffodils and tulips, or little spring animals like baby chicks or bunnies.
No matter which of these crafts you choose to do with your aging loved one, the important thing is that you do it together. Not only will they enjoy the company and companionship that comes along with being creative together, it will also give you a chance to engage their mind through conversation. When my grandmother and I were sculpting daffodils, for instance, I reminded her of the daffodil field she used to take me to every spring when I was a child. Reminding her of the past encouraged her to engage with her memory and reinforced the depth of the connection that the two of us have.
Benefits of Crafts for Seniors with Dementia
Artistic expression is considered to be a very powerful form of therapy. Not only does it nourish and strengthen the mind, it also soothes the body, and gives voice to the spirit. Crafts like the ones mentioned above indeed have the same wonderful therapeutic benefits. Arts and crafts have many other positive outcomes that your loved one may also experience, including:
- Soothing and calming the nervous system, reducing anxiety and feelings of depression
- Promoting creative self-expression
- Encouraging connection and cooperation with others
- Decreasing the reliance on verbal communication for those who can no longer speak
- Increasing confidence and quality of life
- Improving memory by encouraging reminiscing
My grandmother really enjoyed doing spring crafts with me, and I was amazed at the beautiful colorings she did and the adorable little daffodils she molded out of playdough. It was as if a part of her that I thought she’d forgotten came back and I saw her deep love of spring and the beauty it brings with it. I guess she was right after all—spring does bring a little bit of magic into the world.
Institute on Aging is proud to offer a variety of resources and services for aging adults living independently and their caregivers. For more information, contact us today.