Residents with Alzheimer’s disease prefer emotionally meaningful, familiar pursuits over task-oriented activities, a new study finds.

When given a choice, participants with Alzheimer’s disease cited emotional gratification as a top priority. Meeting new people and learning new skills was far less important. In fact, their activity preferences were similar to those of their healthy adult peers, reported Linzy Bohn, from the University of Alberta, Canada.

People with Alzheimer’s want to be around people they know who make them feel good, Bohn found. They also want to continue to pursue the activities they did prior to their diagnosis, within the scope of their abilities. In fact, participants who chose emotionally meaningful pastimes were more likely to report sustained wellbeing, she said.

The findings have implications for the types of activities that should be offered in eldercare settings, Bohn added. They also run counter to findings in other studies, which suggest that residents will enjoy task-oriented pursuits such as folding towels and sorting beads.

“Why would individuals with Alzheimer’s disease prefer those activities over things like painting, playing piano or talking to their grandkids? [T]heir perception of what is a meaningful activity is actually a continuation of what you would see in normal aging,” she concluded.

The study was published online in the journal Aging and Mental Health.