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for the Prevention and Care of Dementia

What is "therapeutic cooking"?

    Cooking is not only helpful for physical rehabilitation for elderly people, but it gives them motivation and confidence, while being beneficial for their care and the prevention of dementia at the same time.  We labeled it "therapeutic cooking".

What are the benefits of  “cooking activities”?

    The benefits of cooking activities include feelings of accomplishment since your finished work is visibly sitting in front of you, and more than anything, you can enjoy eating them.  For elderly people, cooking is a very familiar act that they have been repeatedly conducted in their daily lives, and that is why it is effective in promoting their self-sustainability.  If they can cook for themselves as much as possible, it may delay the need for nursing care.  Cooking itself can be a very fun activity.  Additionally, it’s enjoyable when people cook and eat meals with each other.  Furthermore, because cooking is comprised of many different degrees of processes and tasks, it is possible to allot a suitable “role” to each person.  This reaffirms their “roles” in daily life and helps them “recover their confidence”.  Allowing the participants to “understand their own role” is an important feature of “cooking activities”.  In particular, for those elderly people who have spent years cooking for their family members, “cooking activities” allows a bit of joy into their lives.  Additionally, it has been revealed that cooking activates prefrontal cortex activity.  Various functions of “cooking activities” are effective in moderating behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) and are thought to improve people’s quality of life (QOL).

What is the difference between
therapeutic cooking and recreation

    The purpose of “therapeutic cooking” is to achieve the individual goals of each participant and improve their QOL.  With that in mind, it is important to make a sufficient prior assessment of each person and set a goal based on the view of ICF (International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health), and then make a plan with contents that fit that goal.  Additional important processes are post-evaluation and including that feedback in the following session.  Individual evaluation allows staff members to become deeply involved with each participant and understand them better.  For staff members, it is an effective method to improve their observation and care skills.


Flow of therapeutic cooking

Question & Answer

Can people with dementia cook, too ?

    Cooking involves many processes, and each motion remains in our procedural memory.  Before you start cooking, explain what you are cooking.  Every time the cooking process changes, express it in words and show the participants what to do, such as how to cut the material.  Also, use illustrations and photographs of the tasks.  These arrangements allow people with dementia to be able to cook.  All tasks, including preparations like peeling vegetables and removing strings, actual cooking methods like cutting, stirring, rolling up and roasting, and tasting as well as dishing up meals are cooking activities.  Let each participant do what they can.

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Is it safe for a person with dementia to use a knife ?

    If the person has recognition of a knife, they can use it.  People with middle stage dementia relatively maintain their procedural memory, so that even if they have not cooked for several years, in many cases they can still use a knife.  It depends on the person’s previous cooking experience and degree of emotional stability, but cutting is an activity in which a person can concentrate on his/her task and receive a huge sense of achievement.  When the person uses a knife for the first time, the staff should pay special attention and concern about safety.  Also, you can support them by paring the materials into sizes that are easier to cut and softening them in a microwave beforehand so that participants can cut them with little effort.

What are the points you should be careful of when supporting people with dementia
as they cook

   Let the participants do as much as they can to extract their potential capacity and self-motivation.  Staff members observe what participants can and cannot do, and when necessary, support them by giving encouragement, showing them how to cut, and moving their hands with your own.  Staff members also have the role of guiding the cooking person into their next action.
Allot appropriate roles suited to each person’s ability and do not force them to do something they are not good at.  It is important to respect their way of cooking, seasoning, and dishing.  Staff members support them in such a way that they appear to be learning various things from elderly people.


What are good dishes to cook with a group of people?

   It is best to cook familiar, home-style dishes which the participants like, made for their families, and so on.  Special foods related to celebrations and seasonal festivals are recommended, too, as they may remind participants of these events.  Try to roughly set the cooking time from 60 to 90 minutes.

​   In Japan, sushi, including chirashi-zushi (finely chopped and cooked fish and vegetables mixed together with sushi rice) is a popular treat among elderly people.  Other popular options are kneading dough for udon and soba noodles, and desserts, including cookies and pancakes, along with Japanese style sweets.


This site contains translated exerts from

“Therapeutic Cooking for the Prevention and Care of Dementia”

(Published by Creates Kamogawa in 2014, originally in Japanese)

The original book was written and edited by Natsuko Yukawa in collaboration

with Saeko Maeda and Chiho Myojin.

Transleted by Mikiko Yamaguchi and Lee Lubeck

This work is supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 25510001
Copyright ©2016 Natsuko Yukawa


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