Which group activities work best for persons with dementia? A comparison of ratings from therapeutic recreation staff and research observers


  • Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD
  • Linda Truong, PhD
  • Rachel Gavendo, BA, CTRS
  • Erin Blackburn, BA, CTRS
  • Karen Hirshfeld, MA, CTRS




dementia, group activities, engagement, mood, therapeutic recreation staff


This pilot study aimed to evaluate the perceived impact of therapeutic recreation activities for Persons with Dementia (PwD) on the groups’ participants and on the staff running the groups in order to enhance the understanding of factors which impact the outcomes of therapeutic recreation. Ten therapeutic recreation staff (TRS) members led two series of 10 different group activities for 104 PwD. Afterward, they reported the activities they deemed most versus least successful for participants and for themselves. These evaluations were compared with observations of outcomes (attendance, engagement, affect) as rated by both TRS and research observers immediately after the activities. Choral-singing and brain games were most frequently reported as most successful for participants; holiday newsletter and creative storytelling were most often mentioned as least successful. Activities reported to be more successful for participants were also likely to be considered more successful for TRS. This work provides insight for future investigation on the variables affecting the impact of group activities on both the target audience and on the staff running them.

Author Biographies

Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD

Department of Health Promotion, School of Public Health, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel; Minerva Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of End of Life, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel; The Herczeg Institute on Aging, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

Linda Truong, PhD

Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rachel Gavendo, BA, CTRS

Therapeutic Recreation, Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Erin Blackburn, BA, CTRS

Therapeutic Recreation, Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Karen Hirshfeld, MA, CTRS

Therapeutic Recreation, Baycrest Health Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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How to Cite

Cohen-Mansfield, PhD, J., Truong, PhD, L., Gavendo, BA, CTRS, R., Blackburn, BA, CTRS, E., & Hirshfeld, MA, CTRS, K. (2019). Which group activities work best for persons with dementia? A comparison of ratings from therapeutic recreation staff and research observers. American Journal of Recreation Therapy, 18(2), 39–48. https://doi.org/10.5055/ajrt.2019.0188




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