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Sensory session at the Dementia Hub

Improving emotional wellbeing through the senses for people living with dementia in Waltham Forest

Published: 6 September 2022
Filed under: Health and wellbeing

Researchers from University College London have been exploring how sensory stimulation can improve the emotional wellbeing of those living with dementia.

Dr Danielle Nimmons, Dr Pushpa Nair and Narin Aker have run four public engagement sensory workshops at the Dementia Hub in Leyton.

The workshops, which were attended by eight to 10 people, included activities to stimulate the senses.

Dr Nimmons and Miss Aker explained, “Sensory stimulation can help a person with dementia by evoking memories, feelings, and emotions. It can help people with dementia socialise and stay connected with loved ones. Research shows that engaging the senses can help with emotional wellbeing, including easing feelings of depression and anxiety.”

Attendees were presented with different materials to touch and were asked to share how it made them feel and if they triggered memories from their past.

They were then given smelling oils, prompting a discussion as they tried to work out what they were.

Evalina, who is living with dementia, shared: “One of the materials reminded me of a crushed velvet jacket I had back in the 70s. I also enjoyed the scent and herb session. The rosemary made me think of roast lamb and the cinnamon reminded me of Christmas.”

Evadene agreed that the cinnamon brought back memories of Christmas. She added, “The scent of bergamot made me feel happy and relaxed.”

If you know someone who is living with dementia, you can introduce sensory stimulation into everyday life to support their emotional wellbeing.

Dr Nimmons and Miss Aker explained, “It can be through small, everyday things such as smelling food (during cooking), sitting by a window watching the outside, listening to familiar music, or simple movements at home, such as walking to get a drink.”

Councillor Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Adults at Waltham Forest Council said, “We were  delighted to host the researchers at the Dementia Hub in Waltham Forest.

“When visiting the hub last week, it was incredible to see the great work being done to support people living with dementia, including this fantastic sensory session. It was so touching to hear how memories were unlocked during the workshop.

“If you have a loved one who is showing signs of dementia, we have an array of services available that can support you and them.”