Guide to Implementing Creative Activities with Older Adults


By Lais Alexander, BS, gestalt-therapist, FAM Therapist/Roboticist

In our last post, Benefits of Creative Expression for Older Adults, we learned how creative practice can enhance the lives of our aging loved ones. Are you ready to give it a try? Read on for helpful insight to guide your creative practice toward success.

Here are some qualities of a successful visual art activity: 1,2

  • Order and control over task
  • Simplicity
  • Instant visual stimulation and outcome
  • No pressure of creating a final piece
  • Sensory based
  • Recognition of materials (typical everyday materials)
  • Relaxing and will not cause frustration
  • A non-childlike activity
  • An activity which everyone can input at various levels and stages.

How to make activities less frustrating for individuals with dementia:

  • Contrasting colors (bright primary colors)
  • Variety of Sensory items (i.e., hard and soft)
  • Avoid patterns
  • No complex shadows
  • Avoid sensory based objects that may confuse (i.e., spaghetti noodles for printing, as they may be eaten)
  • Label objects
  • Organized and safe materials – no toxic substances or sharp tools
  • Simple processes

Tips when choosing a music activity:

  • Identify music that’s familiar and enjoyable to the person.
  • If possible, let the person choose the music.
  • Choose a source of music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.  
  • Use music to create the mood you want. For example, a tranquil piece of music can help create a calm environment, while a faster paced song from someone’s childhood may boost spirit and evoke happy memories.
  • Encourage movement (clapping, dancing) to add to the enjoyment.
  • Avoid sensory overload; eliminate competing noises by shutting windows and doors and by turning off the television. Make sure the volume of the music is not too loud.


1. Ford, C. (2012). Enriching life with creative expression. Working with Older People,  16(3), 111-116. doi:

2. Alzheimer’s Association. (n. d.). Art and music. [Blog] Retrieved from

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