Building blocks, like LEGO, have been associated with children’s toys since their introduction in the early 1950’s, but these amazing bricks also have many benefits for adults who are young at heart! More recently, older adults use Lego bricks as a form of stress-relief, as a new hobby/pastime and even as collector items.
Lego offers a variety of builds geared towards almost every age and ability, which makes them perfect for seniors and those with the challenges of Alzheimer’s and other Dementia.
Many activities within nursing homes, retirement centres and including those we blog about, may appear to gear mainly towards women, such as the arts, knitting, and singing. Although some men do enjoy those activities, others are less challenged by them. Offering building opportunities for men provides a familiar, more appealing activity.
No matter the gender, Lego and other building block products (such as Mega Bloks, Duplo, and simple wooden blocks) assists with focus, coordination, and the development or maintenance of fine motor skills. These benefits can greatly improve the quality of life for the elderly in our care and can also socialize them with other residents and family members.
Keeping in mind that the original Lego bricks were specifically designed with smaller hands in mind, there are a variety of medium and larger sized bricks offered that can provide fun, quality time, and even cognitive learning (such as with sorting by colour, size, and shape). Other products like Mega Bloks and Lego’s Duplo series, although more “child-like” in nature, can also serve as tools for building, sorting, and stacking. They are larger in size, colourful, and can assist those with fine motor limitations, such as arthritis, etc. where holding and gripping may be limited.
Before you begin using building blocks with the elderly in your care, think about their cognitive needs, interests and physical limitations. Using blocks you may have at home or purchasing a bin of loose bricks, sort through to find ones that are appropriate in size, colour, and function. Bricks or blocks that are too small or too narrow may not be helpful, so opt for medium or larger sized pieces that are easy to grip, stack together (if necessary), and that are light in weight, to ensure safety and injury-free tasks.
If choosing to do a Lego build, such as their architecture or classic car series, remember that the instructions are printed quite small and may be too lengthy to follow. Consider your options if selecting a design set. It must not only appeal to them, but also allow them the independence and ability to build without frustration and anxiety. For simple builds with instructions, you may opt to copy the instructions in a larger print or using images instead of words to aide in the building task. Working with others is also a great way to build! Someone can be the Reader/Engineer, a Parts Manager/Supplier, and of course Builder! Make it fun and cooperative!