Montessori and Dementia

A hot contemporary Montessori issue that is dear to me is the marriage of our Montessori intervention and dementia (Hopper et al., 2013).  The Montessori method has become popular with adults with dementia (Brenner & Brenner, 2012). Worldwide, 47.5 million people have dementia; a syndrome that affects older adult’s characteristic of deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior, and the ability to perform everyday activities (World Health Organization, 2016).  A preparation of life is introduced to the adult with dementia; offering an increased quality of life.

The Montessori method of meaningful engagement for children is used with the adult resulting a decrease in undesirable behaviors (Lin et al., 2009) agitation, and wondering (Lee, Camp, & Malone, 2007).  How is this possible?  Just like we “follow the child” and prepare and create lessons to hone in a child’s sensitive period, we also match this idea to the adult with dementia.  An adult with dementia requires cognitive stimulation by means of interactions with social and physical environments (Schneider & Camp, 2002).  The Montessori philosophy offers a foundation to indirectly support and cultivate; self-esteem, independence, coordination, order and independence. These needs are very similar to that cognitive impairment seen in dementia which includes: feelings of self-esteem, community or belonging, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of order (Brenner & Brenner, 2012).  Sounds like our Montessori philosophy!  In fact, many issues surrounding dementia can be linked to the inability to meet these particular needs.

A Montessori teacher or caregiver can have conversations with the adult with dementia on their hobbies or skill sets; an assessment of what strengths are still remaining within the adult with dementia.  These insights translate into cognitive, social and emotional sensitive periods within the Montessori method (Brenner & Brenner, 2012).  Meaningful and engaged visits are important when dealing with an adult with dementia. The use of cognitive interventions for adults with dementia supports the use of Montessori-based learning (Hopper et al., 2013).  When visits are paired with a Montessori prepared lesson, this adult can serve as a function to discover the person hiding behind the dementia; their abilities or interests are discovered through this process.

If the adult with dementia can’t remember the details of a visit or within the Montessori lesson, it should not and does not matter as long as the positive feeling can remain after the visit! The adult with dementia can improve with practice even if they do not remember doing it (Skrainer, Malone, Camp, McGowan, & Gorzelle, 2007).  Repetition is an essential of the Montessori method (Dorer, 2017).

How does a teacher approach the Montessori lesson presentation?  Consistent to presenting to children, the teacher refrains from verbally correcting or pointing out a mistake; if the adult with dementia is peaceful and happy then success is already occurring for the adult.  The creating and presenting of Montessori lessons for the adult with dementia make them to feel success and accomplishment that still remain and find again the person behind with memory impairment (Schneider & Camp, 2002).  Dr. Cameron Camp is a pioneer in this combination including Montessori-based programs in early childhood classrooms (Lee, Camp, & Malone, 2007).

Montessori and Dementia are two topics very close to my heart.  My dream is tie in my Florida Licensed Practical Nurse degree with my American Montessori Society training…for now I will continue to create useful and practical lessons!

Thank you for reading!




Brenner, T., & Brenner, K. (2012). You say goodbye and we say hello: The Montessori method for positive dementia care. Chicago, IL: Jay W. Krajic and Brown Trout Publishing.

Dorer, M. (2017). Essential Montessori principles…plus one. Tomorrow’s child, 25(1), 15-19.

Hopper, T., Bourgeois, M., Pimentel, J., Qualls, C. D., Hickey, E., Frymark, T., & Schooling, T. (2013). An evidence-based systematic review on cognitive interventions for individuals with dementia. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 22(), 126-145.

Lee, M. M., Camp, C. J., & Malone, M. L. (2007). Effects of intergenerational Montessori-based activities programming on engagement of nursing home residents with dementia. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2(3), 477-483.

Lillard, A. S. (2007). Montessori: the science behind the genius. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Lin, L. C., Huang, Y. J., Su, S. G., Watson, R., & Wu, S. C. (2010). Using spaced retrieval and Montessori-based activities in improving eating ability for residents with dementia. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 25(10), 953-959.

Lin, L., Yang, M., Kao, C., Wu, S., Tang, S., & Lin, J. (2009). Using acupressure and Montessori-based activities to decrease agitation for residents with dementia: A cross-over trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics, 57(6), 1022-1029.

Raetz, P. B., LeBlanc, L. A., Baker, J. C., & Hilton, L. C. (2013). Utility of the multiple-stimulus without replacement procedure and stability of preferences of older adults with dementia. Journal of Behavior Analysis, 46(4), 765-780.

Schneider, N., & Camp, C. (2002). Use of Montessori-based activities by visitors of nursing home residents with dementia. Clinical Gerontologist, 26(1), 71-84.

Skrainer, M., Malone, M., Camp, C., McGowan, A., & Gorzelle, G. (2007). Research in practice 1: Montessori-based dementia programming. Alzheimer’s Care Quarterly, 8(1), 53-64.

World Health Organization. (2016). Dementia: Fact sheet. Retrieved from