The National Lottery has pledged £1.3m to help 30 care homes across the UK to make their gardens more dementia-friendly. The grant will be made to Learning Through Landscapes, a charity that helps create stimulating outdoor spaces and which will work with care providers and residents to design and build gardens that enhance the lives of people living with dementia.
Dementia Friendly Garden Spaces
Learning Through Landscapes believes that many dementia care homes fail to maximise the benefits of their outdoor spaces, particularly as residents have often enjoyed working in their own gardens and spending time outdoors. A pilot project carried out by the charity at a care home in Herne Bay, Kent, which created a seaside-themed garden complete with a beach hut, helped to increase the amount of time residents spent in the garden and provided further evidence to support the National Lottery grant programme.
With the benefits of outdoor space for people in care homes living with dementia becoming more widely recognised, read on to learn more about how you can adapt your own garden to maximise the benefits to your residents.
Gardens can be wonderfully therapeutic environments, providing gentle exercise, fresh air and access to sunlight and the associated benefits of vitamin D. Furthermore, gardening or simply spending time outdoors can reduce anxiety, improve mood, lower blood pressure and provide an environment that encourages conversation, reminiscence and friendship.
5 Steps to Maximise the Benefits of Your Garden for People Living with Dementia
- Security first: remember to ensure that gates can be locked, fences and hedges are secure and that access both into and out of the garden is safely managed.
- Provide shelter and seating: by offering covered seating areas you can ensure that your garden can be used on both the hottest and wettest of days. British weather is notoriously unpredictable, so plan for the best and worst of conditions!
- Encourage activity: although your garden may be wonderful to look at, people with dementia may want to be more actively involved in the garden or may seek stimulation. By providing raised beds and pots and a selection of handheld tools, residents can contribute to the upkeep of your garden.
- Plan walkways: people with dementia will often enjoy walking and exploring open spaces but can become frustrated by ‘dead ends’ or areas that lack interest. By planning your footpaths so that they loop around to provide a continuous walkway and including points of interest such as archways and trellises, you can ensure that residents are able to explore the garden without frustration.
- Consider the senses: the most effective gardens stimulate all five senses so think about how you can manage this within your own space. Brightly coloured planting will offer visual stimulation whilst highly scented flowers such as roses or lavender will stimulate the sense of smell. Encouraging birds to the garden will provide a background of familiar birdsong and including plants with large or textured leaves can provide something satisfying to touch. Finally, by planting herbs, fruit and vegetables, the produce of your garden can stimulate the sense of taste too.