The Importance Of Being Outdoors: Creating A Sensory Garden For Our Residents At New Malden

transforming the garden at our new malden dementia care homeAt Abbeyfield, we know the importance for older people to get outdoors, particularly those living with dementia. It can help to lift mood, alertness, appetite and improve a general sense of wellbeing. Due to the increase of Vitamin D, small amounts of exposure to the sun can help keep bones healthy, reduce depression and reduce the possibility of falls.

This year, our ‘Breath of Fresh Air’ programme was launched by April Dobson, Abbeyfield’s Head of Dementia Innovation which is aimed...

“to improve and enhance the health and wellbeing of people with dementia by supporting them to enjoy the outdoors and nature.”

Our home at New Malden is part of this programme. It offers specialist dementia care to thirty six residents and is situated in large grounds where the residents are actively encouraged to walk, sit and enjoy the outdoors.

This summer, the garden’s flower beds received a make-over to improve the quality of experience in the garden. It needed to better reflect the needs of our residents by being more sensory orientated with bolder, brighter and more fragrant flowers that have different textures to enjoy and attract more insects and wildlife. This is because: “Although facts, logic and reasoning may no longer be present, a person with dementia retains their emotions, feelings and senses. The outdoors provides a multisensory environment to stimulate all the senses and helps to maintain a connection with the world.”

For this project, April contacted RHS Wisely to see if they could offer anything to help renovate the garden and through their Membership Seed Scheme a number of seed packets were donated.

BT volunteers at our dementia home in New MaldenIt was then a matter of finding the help needed to do the work in the garden and the Abbeyfield Volunteering Team was able to match a group of BT Corporate Volunteers. It was arranged that the volunteers would be at the home for a full day to dig over the beds, plant the seeds and other flowers like lilies and geraniums.

“We are delighted to be a part of this important project and to help make a difference... It is great to be doing something outside and is a good work out!”

It is extremely important to us at Abbeyfield that the opportunity of being outside is available without any barriers and is as enhancing and beneficial as possible. The team at New Malden have certainly noticed the improvements made to the garden. Sonia, the Activities Coordinator, who helped to facilitate the volunteering day commented:

“The garden is looking so much neater, brighter and better. Thank you to all involved.”