Improving outdoor spaces for people with dementia

Access to the outdoors is a vital part of any home design, and care homes are no different.

“As human beings, we have a natural drive to spend time outdoors and some scientists believe it is genetic and talk about biophilia or the love of nature”, said a spokesman for dementia support service, Hammond Care. “For people living with dementia, being outside and keeping active can reduce cognitive decline. “Simple exercise increases appetite, muscle, and bone strength and raises mood, and vitamin D from the sun improves our immune system. And this, in turn, leads to a lower risk of falling.” Interacting with nature also has an incredibly calming effect, which has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and feelings of isolation and depression. So, what can be done to maximise these benefits when designing and improving dementia care facilities?


Here are Hammond Care’s top five tips.


Ideally, your outdoor space will be close to the living area and easy to access. Make sure the door is visible and unlocked and have clear, wide pathways that lead to meaningful places.



Choose safe, brightly coloured, fragrant, low-maintenance plants. Consider features like fountains, ornaments, or sculptures and birdbaths and feeders to attract birds.



Ensure your outdoor space is safe and secure, with even paths that always bring you back home. And provide shelter in the form of wide eaves, awnings, pagodas, conservatories, or covered verandas.



Create opportunities for people to be active, like watering plants, gardening, or walking or having morning tea or lunch outside. Planned activities like Tai Chi or bowls and DIY activities such as painting fences or benches will help to encourage people to go outside and keep them active.



Provide spaces where people can observe – a sunny spot for sitting where people can watch wildlife or others engaging in activities. It is important to make a comfortable place for reading or doing puzzles with good daylight to help people whose vision is reduced.

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