Spending time in green spaces can be hugely beneficial to the mental health of people with dementia. Scotswood Natural Community Garden's Jenny Hopper explains how connecting with nature has helped ease dementia symptoms for residents from a care home.
“After Covid-19, when we could have people from care homes back at the garden, we began a project to run on Fridays which would give people with dementia the confidence to return.
Early on, care homes brought around ten different people each week. But in the last month or so it’s in the people who return to the garden regularly that we’re seeing the biggest improvement to mental health.
I’ve found that being outside in nature makes people with dementia comfortable and they’re able to access memories they otherwise couldn’t. Because we’re in an old building that used to be a school, people are often reminded of their school days, and they remember their friends or their classes.
One visitor actually went to the school where we’re based, and he opened up completely. Usually quiet and reserved, he started to talk about the playing fields, his route to school and his school friends. For him it was like walking down memory lane, it let him access all these memories.
“Being outside in nature makes people with dementia comfortable and they’re able to access memories they otherwise couldn’t”
Older People's Garden Officer
Another woman who came along wasn’t very vocal at all. She was joining one of our planting groups, and as soon as we gave her the tools, her muscle memory kicked in. We watched as she planted and talked through how best to do it with other group members. We heard from carers that she was much happier in between visits to the garden.
For people with dementia, the garden is a jumping off point to engage them in different ways, and they start to transform. I love watching people walk around the garden and get that moment – wow, I remember all these things. It’s like seeing someone become themselves again.”
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