It is no surprise that being outdoors can improve stress or lessen the chances of cancer, but new research suggests that being outdoors may even trigger memories for those suffering from mental decline, or dementia. According to the new study, outdoor spaces, such as a garden, can have a positive impact on the mental and physical well-being of dementia patients, proving sensory stimulation and boosting memory recall.
Lead researcher in the study Rebecca Whear, said in a press release, “There is an increasing interest in improving dementia symptoms without the use of drugs. We think that gardens could be benefitting dementia sufferers by providing them with sensory stimulation and an environment that triggers memories. They not only present an opportunity to relax in a calming setting, but also to remember skills and habits that have brought enjoyment in the past.”
Whear and colleagues analyzed 17 studies with more than 400 people with dementia, to observe how gardens and outdoor areas can benefit those with dementia. The researchers found these studies suggested that garden use was associated with lower levels of aggregation among participants. These findings suggest that horticultural therapy for dementia patients is largely understudied.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about how a garden’s design and setting influences its ability to affect wellbeing, yet it’s clear that these spaces need to offer a range of ways of interacting — to suit different people’s preferences and needs,” said Dr Ruth Garside, an author of the study, in the press release. Further research is needed to find out if this is a viable solution for dementia patients.