Our senses influence everything we do, from how we communicate to how much we enjoy certain activities. As we age, it’s vital that we develop new methods to engage our senses in meaningful ways. Sensory stimulation has been demonstrated to offer several benefits for older adults, particularly those suffering from dementia.
What Is Sensory Stimulation and Why Is It Important?
Sensory stimulation is activation of one or more of our five senses: vision, touch, hearing, smell, and taste. Activation can take many forms, from calming activities, like listening to or playing music, to activities with stimulating colors, images, and lights, or playing basic board games.
Research has shown that sensory stimulation is beneficial to seniors because it improves their quality of life in meaningful ways:
- Makes them feel more relaxed and open to social engagement, which can help improve their mood and behavior
- Allows them to remember past experiences and memories
- Helps them feel more focused and alert
- Allows them to be engaged in an activity that is meaningful to them
- Promotes better sleep, which can help them feel more energized and improve their overall health
Sensory stimulation can help Alzheimer's and dementia patients stay in the moment and connect with their environment. It can also help them communicate by asking questions, responding to verbal cues, and remaining calm in difficult situations.
Engaging Sensory Programs at Moorings Park Communities
At Moorings Park Communities, we offer a wide range of sensory programs that help seniors engage with their surroundings:
Opening Minds Through Art (OMA)
The OMA Program gives seniors an opportunity for self-expression through art. The program consists of nine sessions and two training classes. Not only is the program a tactile stimulation activity, but it also encourages socialization through a volunteer program.
Volunteers are paired with seniors to work on projects together, and due to it being an intergenerational program, it’s open to both high school and college students. Art Instructor Kim Willis has established a relationship with Florida Gulf Coast University and local high schools, and student volunteers who complete the entire 11-week program can receive over 33 hours of service credit.
Eldergrow is a therapeutic garden program offered at Moorings Park Communities. According to recent research, gardening stimulates the memory, as well as all five senses. It has been shown to lower dementia risk factors by 36% by improving motor skills, self-esteem, and sleep, and by reducing agitation. Additionally, gardening naturally cleanses the air, soothes the mind, and boosts mood.
Nourishment Through the Senses
Nourishment Through the Senses is an event where a registered dietitian helps residents prepare, bake, and sample their own food. The last event featured baked bread.
"The scent of baking bread, the feeling of dough between hands and fingers, and incorporating flavors into the bread are all sensory experiences that can awaken the memory centers of the brain and engage residents in responses that are both emotional and physical," said Gisela Bouvier, the instructor of the last event.
There are so many benefits of pet therapy, including improving mood and mental health, increasing a sense of social connection and community, creating stronger physical health, fostering a better quality of life, and lowering the risk of disease.
Studies show that interacting with pets triggers the release of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that helps improve mood. Moorings Park Communities includes various elements of animal therapy in our programs to bring joy, comfort, and support to all.