Can gardens unlock the secret of our memories?

 Whether you’re green fingered or not, almost everyone loves being out in the garden. From small city yards to sprawling countryside properties, there’s something soothing, relaxing and rejuvenating about greenery, plants, flowers and fresh air.

As well as making us feel better, new research from the University of Exeter Medical School has found that being out in the garden can actually be incredibly therapeutic, especially for those suffering from dementia.

If you have a loved one who suffers from dementia and you’re looking for a way to release their memories and help them relax, here’s how being out in the garden could make a huge and positive difference.


One of the most important ways that being in a garden affects those suffering with dementia is to calm them. The beautiful plants and flowers, combined with the peaceful atmosphere, can help dementia patients to feel more relaxed. This in itself can ease the symptoms of their condition while providing a pleasant place for them to spend their leisure time.


Where a garden is in a shared space like a McCarthy & Stone retirement home, it can also provide an important opportunity for dementia patients to interact with other residents, family and friends. Being in a familiar surrounding like a garden can make these interactions easier for dementia patients, allowing them to regain a sense of normality and helping them to remember old routines.

Unlocking memories

Not only does being more relaxed and having increased levels of interaction help dementia patients unlock old memories but the sensory stimulation and familiar environment provided by a garden can help trigger memories too.

While in a garden, dementia patients are more likely to remember old habits that have brought them enjoyment in the past and recall the potential hazards of gardens and outside spaces.

In some instances, gardens for dementia patients have been completely transformed to provide a range of sensory experiences, with one care home even building a typical seaside scene in their garden to allow residents to remember their holidays by the coast.

These sorts of outdoor experiences have proved so effective in helping to unlock old memories in dementia patients that the Department of Health has recently announced a £50m investment in care homes, much of which will go to the transformation of outside spaces.

By creating familiar scenes and scenarios for dementia patients and helping them to relax, gardens play a crucial role in managing the illness and easing its symptoms, helping to build a better quality of life for those suffering from dementia.

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