Activities for Men with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Activity Directors face the challenge of meeting the needs of a diverse population. With an estimated 5.2 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, women outnumber men at a rate of about 2 to 1 (partly due to the fact women live longer that men). And, as one would expect, there are more women than men residing in long-term care communities. Activity calendars often reflect a variety of feminine-based activities such as cooking or baking and domestic activities. It is also important for Activity Directors to identify the interests of the male population and to develop an activity program specifically developed to meet their unique needs.
There are a variety of activities in which men living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can participate in and enjoy. Below are ten suggestions:
Nuts & Bolts – Provide a variety of different sized nuts, bolts, and washers. Either direct the person to sort the items or assemble the items.
At the Movies – Select a film appropriate for a male audience (a western, war movie, or mystery). Schedule a matinee or an evening showing. Supply hot-buttered popcorn, movie-style candy, and soda.
Car Talk – Gather a selection of car magazines and new car brochures. Encourage a discussion about new cars vs. the old cars, foreign vs. domestic, manual vs. automatic transmission, 2-door, 4-door, convertibles, etc.
Sports Time – Watch a live or pre-record ballgame, boxing match, or horse race on a big-screen television. Set out peanuts, popcorn, and pretzels. Serve non-alcoholic beer and soda. Have several sports sections from the local newspaper available to reference.
Poker Night – Organize a game of dominoes, checkers, chess, or a card game (poker or Blackjack). Consider tournaments, award ceremonies, write-ups in the facility newsletter, etc.
Get Physical – Horseshoes, bean bag tosses, badminton, and bocce ball are fun games that involve a lot of movement while encouraging interaction, socialization, and teamwork.
Work with Wood – Craft stores sell a variety of simple woodworking kits. Consider a birdhouse kit. After the birdhouse is completed, it can be painted, placed outside a window, and observed.
War is Hell – A lot of men are military veterans and most have the accompanying, “war-stories.” To reminisce about war-time and/or military service is a great way to encourage engagement while providing an opportunity to share memories.
Go Shopping – Take the men on a trip to a local Home Depot or Lowe’s store. Spend some time in a variety of departments (tools, plumbing, paint, lumber, etc.). The majority of men enjoy tools and many have spent countless hours at a hardware or home-improvement center.
Car Wash – Clear a space in the facilities parking lot. Get a hose, a bucket, soap, sponges, and towels. Solicit a staff member to volunteer their car for washing. Each resident can either wash, rinse, dry, or just enjoy watching.
Male-specific activities are important for men living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. If given the opportunity, proper resources, and step-by-step direction, they may not only be able to participate, but find great comfort and enjoyment in so doing.