Alzheimer’s, one of the most common causes of dementia, is a progressive disease that causes memory loss, confusion, and problems with concentration and can negatively affect mood and many aspects of daily living.
Activities such as gardening are great pursuits for people living with dementia, helping to alleviate some of the symptoms of dementia. Gardening helps stimulate the senses and memories, reduces stress and improves mental and physical health.
Gardens can be calming places, perfect for reflection and relaxation, and they can also be social spaces, allowing shared experiences for children and the elderly to engage with the environment and with each other.
Robert Speker, Head of Member Lifestyle and Activities at Loveday, an award-winning provider of specialist dementia and senior care in the UK, incorporates gardening into the weekly programmes at all of the Loveday Residences.
“Gardening can be hugely beneficial for both people living with dementia and their caregivers. Not only is it a physical and social activity but it can also be rewarding as people watch plants grow and even enjoy the produce such as fruit and vegetables. Gardening can also help to relieve stress, stimulate the senses and provide reminiscence, evoking memories of childhood, youth and yesteryear.”
Gardeners’ World presenter Rachel de Thame shares her top plants for a dementia-friendly sensory garden:
- English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – has an evocative long-lasting scent and the flowers can be cut, dried, and used as potpourri
- An assortment of other herbs – Rosemary, Mint, Sage and Thyme all have a beautiful fragrance plus edible leaves that can be used in cooking
- Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) – an evergreen climber with glossy leaves and starry white flowers, producing heady perfume from late spring to summer
- Lamb’s ear (Stachys Byzantina) – forms a carpet of thick, fluffy leaves, with a woolly texture that feels as soft as a lamb’s ear
- Allium – beautiful late spring flowering bulbs in shades of purple, add colour to the garden and lovely decorative dried seed heads in autumn and winter
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea) – stunning daisy shaped flowers with a distinctive orange cone at the centre, very popular with pollinators
- Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) – amazing chocolate scented, deepest burgundy flowers
- Tree fern (Cyatheales) – a striking fern with large textural leaf fronds and a tactile main stem
- Feathertop grass (Pennisetum villosum) – soft flowers in summer that feel lovely to touch, and arching foliage which creates a rustling sound in the breeze
- African Lily (Agapanthus) – large flowering globes in bright blues, mauve and white, that provide summer colour and structure amid surrounding plants
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This original article first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.
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