People with dementia often get confused about their surroundings, causing them to become agitated or wander away. As a result, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cause a great deal of stress for older adults and their family members. One way senior care facilities are addressing this problem is by creating sensory rooms for people with dementia, which contain familiar everyday objects and offer multiple forms of stimulation to help residents stay calm. Here’s how a dementia sensory room can benefit senior care facilities and their residents.

What is a Dementia Sensory Room?

A sensory room, also known as a multisensory environment, contains objects that have been selected to stimulate the five senses. The purpose of stimulating all the senses is to keep seniors engaged and help reduce the stress associated with having dementia and other conditions that cause memory loss. Researchers from the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health reviewed the use of sensory rooms in several facilities, finding that these rooms help improve mood and reduce agitation.


Nurse with senior lady inside the multi sensory room for patients with dementia


Why Sensory Rooms for Dementia Are Important

Sensory rooms support residents diagnosed with dementia, making it easier for them to avoid unnecessary stress. In addition to improving mood and reducing agitation, sensory rooms for people with dementia have the following benefits:

  • They provide opportunities to explore without the safety concerns associated with taking patients outdoors.
  • Sensory rooms may help seniors with dementia improve their focus.
  • Stimulating the five senses may help older adults with dementia remember more from their lives.
  • Spending time in a comfortable environment has a positive impact that lasts beyond the initial encounter.

Features of Multisensory Environments

The main purpose of setting up a sensory room, also known as a Snoezelen room, is to give residents the opportunity to engage in multisensory stimulation as often as possible. Stimulating one of the senses is helpful, but it’s not as helpful as stimulating all five in one setting.

Individualized Music Therapy

Snoezelen rooms often contain musical instruments or objects that make pleasing sounds. These objects are incorporated into an individualized music therapy program, which is based on each resident’s personal preferences. Listening to or making familiar music helps reduce agitation and control some of the other negative symptoms of dementia.

Exercise Therapy

A sensory room may contain exercise equipment or everyday objects that can be fashioned into exercise equipment if needed. Staff members use this equipment to deliver personalized exercise therapy to residents with dementia and other health conditions. Exercise therapy has been shown to improve balance and help seniors retain as much of their cognitive function as possible. This type of therapy also has a positive effect on mood, which may reduce agitation.

Tactile Objects

People living with dementia are often restless, making it difficult to relax. Researchers in Stockholm, Sweden, report that handling certain objects may induce positive feelings and ease restlessness associated with dementia, making these objects a critical component of sensory room therapy. Occupational therapists usually keep a variety of objects in an activity box, making it easier for residents to relieve stress. Examples include soft textiles, pine cones and stress balls.


Senior man with dementia doing exercise therapy in a sensory room.


Lighting Effects

Lighting effects are another important part of Snoezelen therapy, as certain types of light make residents feel safe and comfortable. For example, using lava lamps instead of turning on harsh overhead bulbs can provide sensory stimulation without overwhelming residents.

Essential Oils

In animal studies, exposure to certain essential oils improved cognitive function, giving researchers another avenue to explore for patients with dementia. Based on these promising results, some sensory rooms have scent diffusers to engage each resident’s sense of smell. Lemon, rosemary, peppermint and orange oils may be especially beneficial for elderly patients.

Introducing the Sensory Room for Dementia at Catered Living at Ocean Pines

Catered Living at Ocean Pines is pleased to announce that we now have our own sensory room to help residents better manage unwanted behaviors associated with dementia. We used evidence-based guidelines to create a multisensory environment that can help improve communication skills and enhance each person’s potential. To create the new sensory room, we took an existing room and turned it into a place where residents can play music, handle textured objects and engage their other senses.

These are just a few of the features of our new dementia sensory room:

  • Sensory wall. The sensory wall has a variety of objects for residents to handle, including chains, soft fabrics, zippers and bolts. It acts as a wall-mounted “fidget board,” giving residents the opportunity to work on their dexterity and fine motor skills. We also use familiar items to reduce agitation or redirect residents when needed.
  • Plenty of windows. Rather than adding artificial lighting effects, we chose a space that has plenty of natural sunlight.
  • Birdcage. Many adults with dementia benefit from pet therapy, which helps reduce loneliness and agitation. Our sensory room has a live bird, which gives residents the opportunity to engage multiple senses. For example, listening to the bird chirp engages a resident’s sense of hearing.
  • Desk and office supplies. The dementia sensory room has a desk stocked with a telephone, notepad, calculator and other office equipment, all of which are attached to prevent residents from removing them. Sitting at the desk and using these items can help residents remember what they used to do as teachers, secretaries and other office workers.
  • Multipurpose activity table. Residents have access to a multipurpose table, which is used for doing puzzles, playing games and participating in other activities.
  • Fully stocked bookshelves. Residents can even grab a book or magazine from our fully stocked bookshelf. Reading or looking through colorful photographs keeps their minds on something positive, which helps reduce agitation and confusion.

Discover the Benefits of Sensory Stimulation for Seniors with Dementia

Catered Living at Ocean Pines, the best senior living community in Maryland, offers several assisted living levels of care, based on their level of independence and physical and cognitive needs. To schedule a tour and learn more about our sensory room for dementia and how our memory care home can help you or your loved ones, call (410) 208-1000 or book an appointment online.