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The Benefits of Cooking and Baking in Care Homes

There is something inherently sweet about baking that goes beyond the reward of a tasty treat. The sensation of flour in the hands and the uplifting smell of freshly baked biscuits engages the senses in a way that can be particularly beneficial for those living in care homes. 

Read on to discover both the emotional and cognitive benefits of baking for and with older people, especially those with dementia.

Cooking, Baking, Mental Health and Care Homes: How Do They Mix Together?

Many care homes around the UK, including our own, have facilities that can accomodate activities to allow interested residents to cook and bake. For those suffering from depression and dementia, baking can be an excellent activity to rehabilitate a healthy relationship with food.

Why cooking is good for mental health

Everyday activities such as cooking, washing up and cleaning can all reduce the risk of developing dementia by up to 45%, a 2012 study showed. As cooking involves weighing and measuring, mixing and stimulating smell and taste, it is an excellent way to keep both the body and the brain active well into old age. 

On one hand, cooking and baking are beneficial as low-key, repetitive activities with a similar effect on the mind as meditation, while on the other hand they’re also a useful outlet for creativity. Cooking in a care home setting has the added benefit of allowing social interaction – not only with carers and other residents during the session, but afterwards as the food is shared. 

Baking and dementia

Interest in eating can diminish in those who have dementia. Baking, however, has proven to be an effective way to bolster relationships with food. 

Benefits include:

  • Encouraging positive behaviour 
  • Promotion of a sense of self and purpose
  • Reduced stress and irritability
  • Maintenance of dignity and self-worth
  • Contributing towards positive feelings such as joy and passion

Source: Culinary Schools

Dementia comes with a handful of emotional side effects – agitation, for example – but culinary therapy is an effective way to build excitement and strengthen pleasant emotional responses. 

For those struggling with depression, baking can act as a therapeutic respite from negative thoughts. Because it is a task that requires focus and attention, there is less room for these negative thoughts to settle and grow: it’s just the baker and the baked goods. The tangible reward at the end of the recipe is also an uplifting mood booster. 

Baking Activities for the Elderly 

At Westgate we are firm believers that residents should be able to continue to indulge their passions – or find new ones – no matter their stage of life. We regularly hold cooking and baking activities that encourage residents to get involved with events such as Macmillan Coffee Mornings, which have the added benefit of raising money for a good cause.

We also have a team of Lifestyle Pioneers – residents who take on a special helping role within the care home – who contribute towards maintaining a healthy relationship with food. Resident Gardeners provide us with vegetables, Event Coordinators organise parties and Food Critics provide feedback for the culinary team who prepares daily meals. 

Find a Home at Westgate

If you’re looking for a welcoming, nurturing environment for your elderly loved one, get in touch with a Westgate care home near you. We offer a comprehensive range of care options, including residential, nursing, dementia and palliative care – get in touch to discuss which one is right for you with one of our friendly and knowledgeable team members. 

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