Coloring Activities for Adults with Alzheimer's and Dementia
Finding an Activity for Someone with Alzheimer's or Dementia
Finding an activity for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a difficult task. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge which memories they retain of past leisure activities, and which abilities they retain as they progress through the disease. We also want to avoid putting them in a situation where they might feel that they have failed. But there is an activity that seems to work for most—coloring.
Great Activity for Kids of All Ages
Coloring is a great activity for kids of all ages. That includes kids whose age exceeds two digits. Coloring is also an excellent activity for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Coloring has long been considered to be a therapeutic activity, again for kids of all ages, young and old. Coloring is known to reduce and relieve stress, and it improves hand-eye coordination.
When planning to introduce an activity such as coloring, we need to take a few things into consideration. Some of the elderly population that we are dealing with have never truly learned how to relax. They might have had a hard time dealing with the concept of even retiring, or with letting others do so many things for them. These same adults may initially consider coloring to be a waste of time.
Choose Age-Related Materials
But even before we get down to the actually activity of coloring, there are a couple of things we need to consider. The first is the subject matter of what is being colored. First of all, I discourage anyone from going to the store and buying a coloring book – essentially, I mean a children’s coloring book. Presenting an adult with a children’s coloring book could be very demeaning.
The second is the actual tool used for coloring. I actually use a combination of colored pencils and felt tipped markers, with an occasional gel pen thrown into the mix.
Most older adults would consider wax crayons to be childish.
Fine tipped felt tipped markers like the ones pictured here are my favorite. They provide a nice bright color and fill the area in fairly quickly. They do not allow you to blend colors, however. But a large color selection like the one pictured here helps to make up for that. If you want to blend colors, pencils colors may be your best bet.
For someone dealing with Alzheimer's or some other dementia, felt tipped markers can be used with the understanding that they can be messy and hard to control and will bleed into the paper if allowed to sit too long in one place. This means that markers may not be the best for someone who has Alzheimer's or dementia, but are great for everyone else. Colored pencils are the ideal tool for all adults.
Avoid Confusing Themes
Some adult coloring books and sites have abstract and surrealistic (nonsensical and/or dreamlike) topics that can be colored. When choosing an activity for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, I would avoid these two styles. The pictures in these styles of coloring pages could be very confusing to a mind that is having difficulties. This could cause agitation and anger, and that would not be the effect we were aiming for – ever!
Dover publishing creates excellent coloring books for adults that are used for educational purposes. I have included a couple of examples of their books, below. They have coloring books focused on old cars, baseball, fish, birds, fashions in the 50's, football, trains, etc. Dover makes them all. Choose a topic that will interest the person you are buying for.
And listed here are some links to websites that include coloring pages specifically for adults.
- Color Pages for Mom - Free Printable Adult Coloring Pages
Free Color Page for Moms and Adults, choose from more than 250 color pages
- Free Mandala Coloring Pages (Printable)
Free Mandala Coloring pages. All Mandala coloring pages are printable.
Coloring: An Activity to be Shared
Coloring is also good for intergenerational activities. In fact, an adult that may not show any interest in coloring on their own may be more than willing to color with their grandchild, or any child for that matter. You can also sit down and color with them exchanging thoughts and ideas about the pictures you are coloring and the colors you are using. You may even have to color for a while by yourself while they sit and watch you before they finally are able to relax and join in on the activity.
Coloring is an activity that absorbs the mind and allows us to let go of our worries for a time. Coloring is accomplished through repetitive motion (back and forth, up and down) which can be very relaxing and calming. Choosing the colors to be used to create the masterpiece can be stimulating for the mind. Coloring can be stopped and started as focus or attention wanes. Coloring has no known negative side effects either.
So bring a little color into their world, and you just might change both of your worlds.
Color their world with love!
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Cindy Murdoch