Friday, January 3, 2014

Montessori Activities for the Elderly

In many cases, Montessori activities for the elderly help to keep seniors with dementia happier and more productive while boosting their sense of self worth.

The Montessori Approach to Learning

The Montessori approach to learning is based on the educational theories of Maria Montessori, an Italian educator.  This method places great importance on adapting the learning experience to the developmental level of the child.  Learning takes place through repetitive, no-fail methods that are adapted to the individual’s specific needs.  There is great emphasis on developing fine motor skills and concentration, and building self-esteem.

The following are several of the main principles of the Montessori method of learning:
  • Each person must be considered as a whole.  All aspects of the individual are equally important and inseparable regarding his or her interests and needs.  These aspects are:
    1. Physical
    2. Emotional
    3. Cognitive
    4. Social
    5. Spiritual
    6. Aesthetic
  • It is necessary to show and have respect along with a caring attitude for everyone, including oneself, all life and the environment.
  • A cooperative atmosphere, peer teaching and social interaction are important for learning to occur.
  • Learning takes place through sensory provesses that include manipulating objects and interaction with other people.

Modifying the Montessori Method for the Elderly

Many nursing homes, elder care facilities and elder daycare centers are adapting the Montessori methods to their clients suffering from varying degrees of memory loss and dementia caused by such conditions as:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Storke
  • Illness

These individuals are given meaningful activities that build upon on their remaining skills and abilities.  The Montessori methods can also be used with individuals that have physical, mental or physical and mental types of disabilities.  Activity programs that are Montessori-based help to give the elderly suffering from memory loss a sense of task completion and success.  These programs often help to reestablish recognition skills and enhance an individual’s memory.

It is important that tasks are broken down into several smaller tasks, or steps.  This helps the individual establish success and lessens the chance of forgetting a step.  Key factors in having the individual achieve a successful outcome to an activity include:

  • Repetition
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Including as many of the five senses in the performance of the activity as possible

Examples of Montessori Activities for the Elderly

There are many types of Montessori tactile materials that can be uses with the elderly including:

  • Puzzles
  • Reading manterials that are printed in fonts that are large and easy to read
  • World flags
  • Letter recognition blocks

Caregivers often are able to find activities that relate to a former hobby, interest or job that the individual enjoyed in their earlier years.  The activity skill must be broken down into smaller tasks to ensure that the individual achieves success.  If the task is still not possible, it needs to be modified until it is possible for the person to perform it successfully.

The following are several examples of how Montessori-based activities have been adapted to use with elderly individuals.

  • Practice buttons, hooks and buckles on a colorful piece of material using large-sized items
  • Practice opening a lock attached to a wooden box
  • Matching plastic fruit they hold to pictures on a cloth or placemat.
  • Placing three different colored balls into matching cups.  If the task is too difficult, one color of the balls and cups would be removed.  If it is still too difficult, only one color would be used until the person was able to achieve success with the task. 
By Terry Hurley

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