According to the International Council on Active Aging, wellness refers to “our ability to understand, accept, and act upon our capacity to lead a purpose-filled and engaged life.” Here, we discuss the seven realms of well being that we can help our loved ones also tap into so they can optimize their lives’ possibilities!

Note that these dimensions can overlap and interact to create wonderful living environments. Instead of seeing the following seven as rigid categories that you must fulfill to ensure complete wellness, you can see them as parts of a holistic framework for engagement.


This realm refers to the awareness of feelings and directing them to create balance in life. This involves coping with difficulties, behaving respectfully, and being trustworthy. Some activities to encourage growth in the emotional domain revolve around reminiscing about your loved one’s past so they can reconnect with their lives. This is generally a great way to introduce humor and laughter into their day as they remember the people and places they love!


This domain involves engaging in cognitive-focused activities that can keep minds alert and engaged. Keep in mind that people with dementia experience a broad range of cognitive abilities. Some will be more capable of completing crosswords, while others prefer word searches. Otherwise, even jigsaw puzzles can be a fun activity for some people to focus their attention. Use discernment to choose which activities can be appropriately stimulating for your loved one!


Physical wellness encompasses lifestyle choices that can improve overall health and functional ability. It spans widely across diet choices, exercise, adequate sleep, keeping up with medications, and limiting substance use. Overall, it is important to encourage these behaviors so that your loved ones are most capable of maximizing the other six domains at their best.


This realm is especially important in that it helps give your loved one internal satisfaction as they use their skills from their career to enhance society. Older adults who can contribute to society as experienced professionals, whether as caregivers, mentors, or volunteers, feel a great sense of value and purpose. Depending on your loved one’s capabilities, they do not necessarily need to take on an official role to fulfill this realm. It could be as simple as asking them to help you do a basic chore, or inquiring about their work experiences and what inspired them to get into their field. As you may have noticed, these activities can certainly overlap with the emotional and intellectual realms.


Closely intertwined with the rest of the aforementioned realms, the social dimension of wellness involves interacting with family, friends, neighbors, and other groups that can enrich your loved one’s life. Human connection is beneficial to anyone, and especially valuable to your loved one if they oftentimes feel out of touch with reality. Fulfilling this realm can mean joining clubs, visiting other loved ones, and engaging in intergenerational experiences during which people with dementia can share stories with younger people, thereby also covering the emotional realm with reminiscing!


This realm, like the others, will look different for every person. Broadly, it refers to living with meaning and purpose guided by personal values. Being in touch with emotions can take form in meditation, which can be a spiritual experience for those who choose for it to be! In addition, experiencing nature can bring about spiritual growth for some.


That brings us to our last of the seven realms! Environmental wellness refers specifically to being grounded in the world around us, respecting resources, and actively living in it. Engaging in this realm can easily intersect with any of the other ones. Activities may include taking nature walks, planting vegetable gardens, and meditating in nature!

We hope that this guide to the seven realms of wellness was informative for your future activities with your loved one! Remember that as a caregiver, you can also find ways to fulfill these dimensions for your own personal wellness.