National charity Thrive is pleased to be part of a pioneering project which will make gardens and outdoor space at dementia care settings across the UK more accessible, stimulating and to promote meaningful activity.
By creatively developing the environment outside the dementia care settings, residents will be encouraged to use the spaces more often to improve their health and wellbeing.
Staff too will be given guidance on how to make best use of their new outdoor space and there will be resources for anyone in the dementia care sector on the value gardening can bring to people living with dementia.
Learning through Landscapes will run the project and has received a £1.3 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund.
Thrive will deliver training to dementia care staff and consult on garden design for people with dementia; Groundwork will manage and deliver the landscaping works; Age UK will provide expertise on project design and implementation for people living with dementia as well as identify 30 care home settings; and the University of Kent will deliver the evaluation and support the consultations.
The team at Thrive will apply its expertise gained from years of working with people who have dementia to create a film aimed at anyone in a dementia care setting showing the value of gardening for people living with dementias.
Thrive will also create a podcast on the same subject but aimed at the general public. And the charity will create the first ever web based learning resource for garden designers on how to create a garden suitable for people with dementia.
Thrive has a long history of providing consultancy to a number of care homes and dementia care settings on the best way to use gardening to promote health and wellbeing for many years. The charity also consults on how best to design a suitable garden and is entering its seventh year of working with Hallmark Care Homes.
Many of the 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia have had significant experience of the outdoors either through work or in their own leisure time, which is often lost as a result of the restrictions that dementia brings.
Although the health and wellbeing benefits of stimulating natural environments are becoming increasingly well known**, it is often the case that the outside spaces of many dementia care settings are rarely used and tend to be tidy, easy-to-maintain, highly-manicured spaces without areas to grow plants or wild corners that attract wildlife.
Staff will also be trained to promote frequent access to more appealing outdoor areas where people can rediscover gardening skills or simply relax and take in the multi-sensory experiences of nature.
Damien Newman, Training, Education and Consultancy Manager at Thrive, said: "Over time, those experiencing dementia may not be able to maintain their ability to manage everyday tasks, as their mood and understanding are affected.
"These changes mean help may be needed to find new ways to do these jobs, such as breaking each task down into stages or concentrating on the experience of activity more than trying to get activities finished.
"Many familiar gardening jobs can easily be broken down into smaller steps and through this approach people can be encouraged to continue to achieve. And then as dementia progresses encouraging people to explore the sensory qualities of plants and nature can improve mood and affect.
"From our own pilot study research into the effects of gardening on those with young onset dementia *** we found that structured gardening activities appeared to alleviate the expected deterioration of wellbeing and possibly even cognitive functioning. Gardening activities also provide opportunities for exercise to maintain physical functioning and provide time to socialise in an environment where we feel we belong.
"A well designed garden can be a safe and enjoyable place that can help give a sense of time and continuity through being in touch with the seasons.
"Well considered routes around the garden can be easier to negotiate and reduce the anxiety of making decision. Seating can be a place for conversation or quiet reflection and beds or containers at comfortable heights will make gardening more enjoyable. Special consideration for other potential age related conditions will also enhance accessibility.
"We are looking forward to seeing some new gardens being designed and empowering staff to use them with residents and understanding the benefits this will bring."
Kathryn Rossiter CEO at Thrive, said: "This is an exciting project which will make a positive difference to hundreds of people living with dementia.
"Our own research revealed that for people with dementia, gardening and being outdoors can lead to improved mood sociability and improved self-identify as valued and confident individuals.
"Carers also commented that dementia patients gardening together in a small group had resulted in feelings of independence, enjoyment, value and achievement.
"This project has the ability to touch the lives of hundreds of people living with dementia."
Juno Hollyhock, Executive Director, Learning through Landscapes, said: "This project brings together elements such as garden design, staff training and support, client based consultation and local knowledge to create innovative and exciting garden spaces.
"We believe that bringing together the very best in current thinking around designing for people living with dementia will give many more settings the chance to try out low cost solutions in their outdoor spaces in the future."
Thrive offers bespoke training and consultancy services to anyone wanting to maximise the use of outdoor space in their care settings.
Please contact our training team on 0118 988 5688 if you’d like to see how Thrive could help your organisation or team.
*Alzheimer’s Society: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/infographic
**Living with dementia and connecting with nature – looking back and stepping forwards, Dementia Adventure, 2011.
Greening Dementia - a literature review of the benefits and barriers facing individuals living with dementia in accessing the natural environment and local greenspace, Natural England, 2013.
Living Well With Dementia: a national dementia strategy, 2009.
*** Evidence, messages, learning: Does A Structured Gardening Programme Improve Well-Being In Young-Onset Dementia?
For more information, pictures or to arrange interviews, please contact Communications & PR Manager for Thrive, Alyson Chorley on 0118 988 5688.