Alzheimer’s Australia NSW is preparing to unveil an innovative dementia-friendly garden at its site in Bridge Street, Port Macquarie.
Using best-practice guidelines and research from around the world, along with feedback garnered through consultation with consumers and health professionals, the garden has been developed as a multi-purpose, therapeutic space that will stimulate and calm the senses.
The Hon. John Watkins AM, CEO Alzheimer’s Australia NSW said the garden will be an invaluable resource for people with dementia and their carers.
“We are incredibly proud of this unique space,” Mr Watkins said.
“Research has shown that gardens can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, agitation, panic, aggression and confusion.”
“Access to a garden has also been found to improve attention, relaxation and self-esteem. Interacting using all the senses in a garden environment can help trigger memories, and moving around the garden can help improve motor skills,” he said.
The recently-developed Alzheimer’s Australia NSW dementia-friendly garden at Port Macquarie.
Dr Theresa Scott, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow at The University of Queensland said gardens provide people with dementia access to fresh air, sunshine and exercise which can help regulate circadian rhythms and control appetite and sleeping.
“Older adults, quite simply ‘feel good around plants’, according to research. Spending time wandering through a dementia-friendly garden, tending to plants or simply admiring a flower requires effortless attention, providing relief from physically and emotionally draining experiences, and an opportunity to recharge,” Dr Scott said.
“Positive memories of one’s past can be stimulated, by being exposed to the sights and smells of nature such as plants, flowers, birds, water and insects.”
Elements to consider in creating a garden dementia-friendly include:
Colour and contrast
It is vital that everything is clear and simple, and contrasting colours is an easy way to show separation of elements. The Alzheimer’s Australia NSW garden has contrast between:
Signage is very important and should be as clear as possible. Signage in our garden has:
Safety and usability should be key considerations. Our garden has:
“Importantly for people with dementia, when looping paths are built into the design, therapeutic gardens provide a safe area in which to wander or pace,” Dr Scott said.
“Design considerations such as safe and wide paths are crucial to reduce the risk of falls, and enable free access to individuals, whether physically limited or very frail.”
Therapy and socialisation
A garden can be used to reflect, meditate, reconnect and escape. For that reason, our garden has:
“There is evidence to suggest that social benefits accrue for people who are actively involved in group-based gardening activities,” Dr Scott said.
Elements with increased sensory intent can ignite a person’s experience through a combination of textures, visuals, feelings and smells. As such, our garden has:
Sarah, from Port Macquarie, is living with dementia and is pleased that Alzheimer’s Australia NSW has created the garden.
“Having this unique space here in our community is going to be so beneficial to people living with dementia and their carers in Port Macquarie,” said Sarah.
“I’m looking forward to using the garden and would encourage other local people in similar circumstances to do the same. Carers will also benefit from spending time in this restful setting.”
Anybody with an outdoor space is encouraged to use as many of these principles as they can to ensure their space is as dementia-friendly as possible.
“If space and financial constraints prohibit these inclusions in an outdoor garden, introducing elements of nature — for example, potted plants and flowers, herbs and cacti terrariums – on a balcony or patio is an achievable way to take advantage of the therapeutic effects of nature,” said Dr Scott.