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March Madness-Inspired Activities for Cognitive Stimulation in Dementia Patients

Senior adult engaging in painting, a cognitive stimulation activity beneficial for individuals with dementia.

The term “March Madness activities” primarily refers to activities related to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Tournaments. This single-elimination tournament, held annually in March and early April, determines the national champion of college basketball in the United States.

However, the spirit of March Madness can extend beyond the court, offering inspiration for engaging activities that stimulate the cognitive and social well-being of individuals living with dementia.

Dementia is a general term encompassing a group of progressive conditions affecting memory, thinking, and reasoning abilities. While there is no cure, various activities can help maintain cognitive function and improve the quality of life for individuals with dementia.

March Madness as a Springboard for Engagement

March Madness provides a unique opportunity to tap into various cognitive domains and social aspects that are crucial for individuals with dementia. Here are some activities inspired by the world of college basketball:

1. Bracket Challenge with a Twist

A popular tradition associated with March Madness is filling out brackets, which involve predicting the winner of each game throughout the tournament. This prediction game adds another layer of engagement, allowing fans to test their knowledge, compete with friends and family, and participate in the excitement.

  • Traditional Brackets: Create a simplified bracket with fewer teams and larger spaces for writing. Encourage individuals to fill out the bracket based on team colors, mascots, or any personal connection they might have to the teams. This fosters memory recall and decision-making skills.
  • Memory Bracket: Instead of predicting winners, create a bracket with memories from the individual’s life. Use categories like “Favorite College Towns,” “Memorable Games,” or “Funny Sports Moments.” This sparks conversation, reminiscing, and memory retrieval.

2. March Madness Trivia

  • Organize a trivia session centered around college basketball trivia, focusing on past champions, famous players, or historical moments. This activity stimulates memory recall and knowledge retrieval while fostering a sense of competition and social interaction.
  • Personalized Trivia: Create personalized trivia questions related to the individual’s own life and experiences with basketball. This could involve asking about their favorite college team, players they admired, or personal anecdotes related to the sport.
2. March Madness Trivia

3. March Madness Bingo

Customized bingo cards: Create custom bingo cards with squares featuring themes related to basketball, such as colors of basketballs, types of fouls, or famous players (avoid using real names to prevent confusion). Alternatively, use themes related to college mascots, colors associated with participating teams, or even common objects found in their environment.

Keeping it engaging: Call out prompts related to the themes, encouraging patients to mark the matching squares on their bingo cards. You can use pictures, simple descriptions, or even play sound effects to enhance engagement.

Celebrating success: Celebrate the completion of a bingo line or card with enthusiastic cheering and positive reinforcement. This sense of accomplishment can be highly motivating and contribute to a positive mood.

4. “March Madness Memories” Storytelling

Gather individuals and encourage them to share memories related to basketball, whether it’s playing the sport themselves, attending college games, or watching them on television. This activity promotes verbal communication, storytelling skills, and reminiscing about positive past experiences.

Create a “March Madness Memories” Photo Album: Compile photos from the individual’s life related to basketball, such as pictures from their college years, attending games with friends, or even watching iconic championship moments. Reviewing these photos can trigger conversation, memory recall, and a sense of connection to past experiences.


5. March Madness-Themed Arts and Crafts

Engage individuals in creating artwork inspired by March Madness. This could involve painting their favorite team colors, drawing mascots, or even crafting team-themed decorations. These activities promote creativity, fine motor skills, and self-expression.

Decorate a “March Madness Corner”: Designate an area in the living space and decorate it with March Madness-themed elements like team colors, mascots, or even bracket posters. This fosters a sense of community and shared interest around the event.

Arts and Crafts

Beyond the Activities

Incorporate Music: Play upbeat music associated with college basketball games or the individuals’ favorite teams. Music can evoke positive memories, improve mood, and encourage movement.

Focus on Enjoyment: The primary goal is to create a fun and engaging experience. Adapt activities to suit individual abilities and preferences, and prioritize enjoyment and social interaction over competition or performance.

Celebrate Small Victories: Acknowledge and celebrate any participation, effort, or correct answers during the activities. This fosters a sense of accomplishment and encourages continued engagement.

an image of old man enjoying march madness


March Madness, with its captivating spirit and engaging format, can be a valuable source of inspiration for activities that stimulate cognitive function and social interaction in individuals with dementia. By incorporating these activities and focusing on personal connections and enjoyment, caregivers and loved ones can create a meaningful and enriching experience, bringing the excitement of March Madness beyond the court and into the lives of those they care for.

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Picture of Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise, inspired by personal experiences and driven by her role as an advocate, founded Voise Foundation to improve the lives of those with dementia. As the foundation's key content creator and blog author, she draws on her deep understanding of the disease, advocating for respect, dignity, and creative therapy avenues such as VST Music© and other programs. Cherie's heartfelt writings, fueled by empathy, resonate with readers, offering insight and stirring action. Become a part of this journey and together with Cherie, let's make a meaningful impact in the world of dementia care.