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Connections with nature for people living with dementia

Simon Chester Evans (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Julie Barrett (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Neil Mapes (Dementia Adventure, Ford End, UK)
June Hennell (Dementia Activist, Gloucester, UK)
Teresa Atkinson (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Jennifer Bray (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Claire Garabedian (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Chris Russell (Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 18 June 2019

Issue publication date: 17 September 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The benefits of “green dementia care”, whereby people living with dementia are supported to connect with nature, are increasingly being recognised. Evidence suggests that these benefits span physical, emotional and social spheres and can make a significant contribution towards quality of life. However, care settings often present specific challenges to promoting such connections due to a range of factors including risk-averse cultures and environmental limitations. The purpose of this paper is to report on a project that aims to explore the opportunities, benefits, barriers and enablers to interaction with nature for people living with dementia in residential care and extra care housing schemes in the UK.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were gathered from 144 responses to an online survey by managers/staff of extra care housing schemes and care homes in the UK. In depth-case studies were carried out at three care homes and three extra care housing schemes, involving interviews with residents, staff and family carers.

Findings

A wide variety of nature-based activities were reported, both outdoor and indoor. Positive benefits reported included improved mood, higher levels of social interaction and increased motivation for residents, and greater job satisfaction for staff. The design and layout of indoor and outdoor spaces is key, in addition to staff who feel enabled to promote connections with nature.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is based on a relatively small research project in which the participants were self-selecting and therefore not necessarily representative.

Practical implications

The paper makes some key recommendations for good practice in green dementia care in extra care housing and care homes.

Social implications

Outdoor activities can promote social interaction for people living with dementia in care settings. The authors’ findings are relevant to the recent policy focus on social prescribing.

Originality/value

The paper makes some key recommendations for good practice in green dementia care in extra care housing and care homes.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank residents, staff and family members at the care homes and extra care housing schemes who took part in the research. Funding for this research was provided by the Abbeyfield Research Foundation, based on a proposal submitted through competitive tender. Further to this, the funder’s involvement was to receive six-monthly updates on progress and to sign off a final project report.

Citation

Evans, S.C., Barrett, J., Mapes, N., Hennell, J., Atkinson, T., Bray, J., Garabedian, C. and Russell, C. (2019), "Connections with nature for people living with dementia", Working with Older People, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 142-151. https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-01-2019-0003

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited