305 West End Assisted Living Blog

7 Art Project Ideas for Seniors Living with Dementia

Senior with dementia painting

Engaging in creative art projects can be rewarding for people of all ages, but they may be especially beneficial for seniors living with dementia.

Research suggests that art therapy may provide an alternative means of communication for older adults living with impaired language skills and improve other cognitive processes, such as attention and orientation. Art can also help maintain or improve hand-brain coordination and fine motor skills. Art therapy also gives seniors a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, which is beneficial for mental health, too.

If you are looking for art projects for your loved one, focus on a variety of different creative forms that match their interests and preferences.

Planning an Art Project for Someone Living with Dementia

When you begin planning an art project with your loved one, here are some things to keep in mind, as recommended by the Alzheimer's Association:

  • Assist your loved one in beginning the activity. Sometimes a loved one may need a prompt or instruction to get them started. Show them how to move a paintbrush, ask them to sculpt something they like, or work beside them on a collage.
  • Choose adult-focused art projects. When planning a project, choose coloring books, collage media, and subjects appropriate for adults. Ensure the materials are nontoxic, and avoid using sharp tools. While you may need to make a few adjustments based on your loved one’s current abilities, try to avoid projects that may seem demeaning.
  • Engage in conversation throughout the project. Build conversational prompts into each project. Ask what your loved one is working on, why they chose it, and what it makes them think about. This not only encourages verbalization but also reminiscence.
  • Be patient and set aside plenty of time. Your loved one may take much longer than you anticipate to work through a project. They may not be able to complete a project in one sitting. Allow enough time for them to get into a work rhythm, and don’t be concerned if they grow tired or agitated partway through. You can always pick up the project tomorrow.

Art Project Ideas for Someone Living with Dementia

Here are seven art project ideas for seniors living with dementia that you can try:

Clay sculpting tools 1. Sculpt with clay or wood. Sculpting with clay or wood is a unique way to engage in creative play. When sculpting for the first time, you might consider using modeling clay or a form of squeezable sand that is easier to use — and clean up!


Paint brushes 2. Paint with watercolors, oils, or pastels. When many of us think of “art therapy,” painting is often the first activity to come to mind. Consider your loved one’s current cognitive and physical abilities when choosing the type of medium you use. Oils and watercolors can create more of a mess than pastels, markers, or crayons. However, your loved one may prefer the tactile experience of painting with watercolors or oils.

Also, as recommended in the planning section above, always ensure that whatever type of paint or coloring media you choose is non-toxic.

Senior citizen coloring in an adult coloring book 3. Color in simple adult coloring books and pages. Adult coloring books may be a better option if your loved one is overwhelmed by a blank canvas. Depending on their cognitive abilities, some of the more complex designs offered in adult coloring books today might be too challenging. Instead, search for coloring books with simple designs that can be easily filled in.

This is also a great activity that you and your loved one can do together. You can work on your own books together or color different pages of the same book.

Collage made by a senior citizen with dementia 4. Create a collage from magazines, craft paper, photos, and stickers. Working on a collage provides an opportunity to work with many different types of materials, which offer a variety of engaging textures. Incorporating family photos and articles can also help seniors living with dementia reminisce and verbalize thoughts and feelings in a way that they may otherwise struggle with.

Prepare materials ahead of time, including magazines, photos, craft paper, stickers, cut-outs, and other paper craft items. If your loved one is having difficulty getting started, invite them to pick out images they like and place them on the collage paper. Help them to paste the images onto the page and ask why they chose each image.

Decorated cookies 5. Decorate cookies, cupcakes, or other baked goods. If your loved one enjoys baking but cannot be in the kitchen due to safety concerns, decorating offers a great way for them to stay engaged.

Choose baked goods like cookies and cupcakes that can be individually decorated, allowing for more creativity opportunities. Additionally, consider putting together a gingerbread house kit. This is an especially good family activity that your loved one can participate in during holiday gatherings, and it is a wonderful way to make them feel included.

Senior citizen putting a puzzle together 6. Put together a jigsaw puzzle. This is another good activity that your loved one can do with other family members. Choose a design of something your loved one enjoys or has a passion for. A meaningful jigsaw puzzle can help prompt conversation and reminiscence, as you can ask them questions about their interests.

For instance, if your loved one used to ride horses, you can choose a puzzle with images of horses and ask them to share a story about those days as you put the project together. Read more about the brain benefits of puzzles.

crafting 7. Try crafting kits. Numerous crafting kits are available today focused on adults. While you will need to consider your loved one’s abilities and preferences, with so many to choose from, you should be able to find several that pique their interest.

These range from simple no-sew felt projects to wreath making, birdhouse decorating, papercrafts, ornament painting, and much more.

More Caregiving Resources

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in how to make your home safe for someone living with dementia, and natural ways to boost your energy as a caregiver. If you would like to be notified about more articles like this one, sign up for our newsletter by entering your email address in the subscription box on the right.

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