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This 'Bloom' garden has been specially designed for people with dementia

The garden demonstrates the importance of outdoor spaces for people with dementia.

THERE’S ALWAYS AN array of creative and artistic gardens at the annual Bloom Festival in Dublin – but it’s clear that this year the creator of one garden has really been thinking outside the box.

The Bloom Dementia-Friendly Garden is currently on display at the popular Phoenix Park event.

With a clever use of layout, colour, planting and customised fittings, the space aims to create a safe and therapeutic outdoor space for people with dementia.

As anyone who has family experience of the condition knows, dementia can bring difficulties with short-term memory, comprehension, orientation, spatial awareness, visual perception and mobility.

Taking all of the above on board, this garden was designed to tap into a person’s retained skills, abilities, interests and memories.

The garden has been designed by architect Tom Grey, who works in the Trinity Haus research centre.

“What we wanted to do in Bloom was demonstrate the importance of design and outdoor spaces and how we could create a beautiful, calm and supportive space for a person with dementia so they can use a garden independently,” Grey said.

Trinity Haus, which specialises in energy-efficient buildings and people-centred design, was commissioned to work on a project focusing on making housing in Ireland more dementia-friendly.

From there, the researchers teamed up with Sonas apc, a charity that provides therapeutic training for people with dementia.

How do you make a garden dementia-friendly? 

The garden has been designed so that direct physical and visual access is available from the home – in practice, this means the person in the garden can see the house or be seen from the house from every corner of the space.

“It’s providing a very simple and understandable layout that helps with orientation,” said Grey.

Oftentimes a person with dementia could go outside and get lost. A space that leads them around and back to where they started from is really important.

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Grey explained that the use of colour and contrast was essential in a dementia-friendly garden.

Colours provide visual cues for the person with dementia, helping with orientation. The garden’s furniture is painted in light-blue and red, in contrast to the green of the plants. This helps make the furniture easily visible.

Familiarity is another major issue, according to Grey.

“It’s very important to draw on people’s memories,” he said.

IMG_8707 Vintage props in the garden help people remember memories from the past.

The garden comes with a vintage radio and a cushion that has a person’s family images on it.

IMG_8708 This raised planter creates easy access to gardening.

Finally, activity is critical to a person with dementia and this garden has “very carefully designed pieces of garden furniture that allows a person to carry out activity independently”.

Amongst other features, a raised planter, mini-glasshouse, and tool shed give easy access to gardening.

IMG_8709 The contrasting red and blue colours provide visual cues to help with orientation.

CEO of Sonas Sinead Grennan said:

“Dementia is a journey. Some people would have very mild dementia and with a little few supports they can function very well in a garden and can continue to do all the things that they would have done before.

Those spots to sit are really important because someone can really gently interact with nature, so it simulates all the senses.

After the Bloom Festival, this garden will be moved to its sponsor’s site at the TLC care home Citywest.

Bloom takes place in Dublin’s Phoenix Park until Monday 5 June. For more details click here.

Read: Here are our 6 favourite gardens at Bloom

More: Grow it yourself: Barley salad with green garlic and sugarsnap peas

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