Older women eating lollipops and laughing

30 Activities to Do in 30 Seconds or Less

Planned activities do not happen all day long. Individuals with the ability to think through how to spend their time can initiate being with others or spending time alone. Persons with dementia often cannot do this. They need help—not only in structured activity—but also in relational interactions throughout the day.

These 30 simple, unstructured interactions are not on the activity calendar, but they are probably the most important of the ways that we interact with persons with dementia.

  1. Greet the person by name
  2. Make eye contact and smile
  3. Shake hands
  4. Ask someone to “show me” an object
  5. Gently tease: “Mr. Smith, I just saw you eat dessert first!”
  6. Tell someone he or she is loved
  7. Give a sustained bear hug
  8. Give a compliment: “Wow! You’re looking pretty spiffy today, Margie.”
  9. Ask an open-ended questions: “How are you feeling today, Mike?”
  10. Ask an opinion: “What do you think of my new necktie? Does it match my shirt?”
  11. Play a quick game of catch
  12. Notice an unusual bird out the window
  13. Evoke a memory from the Life Story of the person: “Tell me more about that grandfather of yours who was a country doctor. Did he really make house calls?”
  14. Give a hand massage
  15. Share a new lotion and talk about its pleasant scent
  16. Blow bubbles
  17. Slip a little treat to someone (being certain it’s dietetically okay)
  18. Share a magic trick
  19. Show off family photos of a new grandchild
  20. Blow up a balloon and bat it around
  21. Look at a flower arrangement and compare colors, textures, and scents
  22. Ask for advice on a recipe
  23. Tell a funny story or joke
  24. Do a quick dance to some fun music playing in the background
  25. Notice vivid colors in an unusual dress or shirt
  26. Ask for help with a chore, such as folding a towel, helping make a bed, or squirting some wax onto a piece of furniture about to be polished
  27. Try on a hat or hats
  28. Try on a new shade of lipstick
  29. Clown around for a moment, making funny faces, or throwing your hands in the air and spinning around once or twice in a silly dance
  30. Step outdoors for some fresh air

For more activity ideas and info on Best Friends™, visit our Best Friends Portal.