Discovering the joys of gardening for those living with dementia

Gardening is something that can bring great comfort and pleasure to people of all ages and abilities, and people living with dementia are no exception.

Whether they were keen gardeners or not before diagnosis, connecting with the outdoors offers activities which can distract, engage, add to routines and be a meaningful focus for physical and social activity.

The benefits gardening for someone with dementia

Gardening can provide a fantastic opportunity for stimulation of all the senses. Enjoying some fresh air and a change of scenery can be enough in itself to boost a feeling of wellbeing, and the sights, sounds, and smell of a garden can all help motivate and engage.

Physical Benefits – The exercise and manual dexterity skills employed in gardening can help reduce agitation and improve sleep.

Cognitive Benefits – Helping to plan and organise the activity, and the accompanying decision-making provide opportunity for meaningful activity that can help stimulate, motivate and form part of a daily routine to order the day.

Social Benefits – Gardening is a great social activity and provides fantastic stimulus for conversation.

Emotional Benefits – Something as simple as being outside and simply feeling the sunshine on  your face, listening to bird-song or enjoying the flowers can help boost mood, while purposeful activity and social engagement can lead to improved feelings of well-being and contentment.

Gardening Activities for someone with dementia

With a little careful management it is perfectly possible to adapt many gardening activities to involve a person living with dementia, whatever their disabilities.

Those who are physically active may enjoy, with suitable prompts as needed, the full range of gardening jobs from digging and planting, to sweeping, pruning and weeding.

As dementia symptoms develop, gardening jobs can be broken down into smaller, less physically demanding tasks such as growing seeds or bulbs in pots, or just simply being in the garden watching others do the work but still feeling involved.

Gardening with other people can be particularly rewarding, fostering and maintaining relationships not only through doing things together, but also through the companionship and talk that always seems to go alongside.

Enjoying  the moment

The most important thing to remember is that  for people with memory difficulties and cognitive disability, the emphasis needs firmly to be on the ‘here and now’ – enjoying a shared task in the moment.

Even if memory quickly fades of the task and what was involved, the feelings it produced, hopefully of pleasure, calmness and peace, can linger long into the future. And this can have a significant effect on contentment and well-being.