The Art of Play

Staying connected to joy along the dementia journey
The Boxer 2012. Oil on linen 72 x 60 in. Private collection.

You’re never too old to have fun. That’s what Jason Yarmosky shows us in his series of of paintings Elder Kinder, inspired by his grandparents as they aged. Oftentimes, as one ages or develops dementia, we can become fixated on the things that they can’t do rather than seeking to highlight strengths. As caregivers, it’s our role to challenge this thought process and encourage our loved one to continue doing things they have always loved, in a safe way.

Alternatively, your loved one may be presented with an opportunity to try new activities and find new passions. Aging and dementia doesn’t have to stop the fun- in fact, it can be an inspiration for more. Yarmosky shows us this in paintings, such as “Kinder Love”(2012) and “The Princess”(2011). In these paintings, we see his grandparents embracing each other, life, and love in creative costumes.

“The Princess” (2011) Jason Yarmosky
"Kinder Love" 2012. Jason Yarmosky
“Kinder Love” (2012) Jason Yarmosky

People living with dementia may withdraw from activities that they previously had enjoyed, similar to how Yarmosky’s grandmother withdrew. It often falls on the caregiver to encourage their loved one to participate in an activity, even if initially they may be faced with apprehension.

Someone with dementia may not entirely understand what a caregiver is asking, or may struggle with initiating the activity on their own. If caregivers begin the task with enthusiasm, it’s likely that their loved one will be willing to participate, and ultimately enjoy themselves.

If you’re looking to be inspired with new ways to engage with your loved one, check out a few of the creative therapies that members of the Dementia Spring Artist Network have brought to people living with dementia.

Other activities that are beneficial (and enjoyable!) for people living with dementia include:

  • Art projects (watercoloring and adult coloring books) 
  • Physical activities such as chair yoga, walking and tai chi
  • Sensory stimulation such as aromatherapy or sing a longs
  • Puzzles (such as crosswords or word searches)

Finding moments of joy and laughter in the dementia journey is key for both the person living with dementia and their caregiver. Whether it’s dressing up, dancing, or painting, moments of happiness are self-fulfilling and can sustain us even when in some of the most challenging times in our lives.

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