Food is a huge part of all of our lives, whether it be choosing what to cook, shopping for the ingredients, preparing and cooking the dish, serving it out, eating and enjoying the meal or clearing away afterwards. These actions become automatic to us, but what about those older people who no longer have the opportunity to take part in these experiences?
Cooking can be seen as a form of historical importance, with skills and recipes being handed down through the generations, creating strong bonds between family members. It can be highly therapeutic, encourages social interaction and is a great way to stimulate appetites in older people.
For Activity Coordinators working in care homes, the prospect of elderly residents using hot ovens and hobs might seem a non-starter due to health and safety considerations, but this should not deter from something less risky such as measuring out ingredients, assembling them together in a mixing bowl, shaping with hands and placing on a baking tray. These tactile acts can be highly enjoyable in themselves, even if they do not result in anything edible. Even tying on an apron can be a vivid reminder of cooking for the family.
Bread/pizza dough mixes can be a cheap and fun way to play around with food. The feel of the floury mix, measuring out of water and kneading with the hands can evoke past memories of baking bread for the family - apart from the workout it will give the fingers! The dough is usually nice and warm, so this activity can be extremely comforting and calming , especially for anyone with a dementia.
Preparing vegetables or fruit can also be enjoyable. Ergonomic peelers are ideal for older hands to prepare carrots or potatoes and will induce discussions about family recipes for casseroles and stews . Likewise, easy to peel oranges, chopping bananas, separating grapes or peeling and coring apples can be used to make a large fruit salad to be enjoyed by the group.
Why not continue the sensory experience by playing one of our sensory experience games such as ‘Follow Your Nose’: 30 aromas to guess that include rose, coconut, firewood and many others. Or go for our newest ‘Scentscapes’ aromatic kit. Designed to stimulate memories of looking after the house and home this includes aromas of baby powder, clean linen and freshly baked bread. See our website for further details.