Thursday 8th July 2021
By Angeli Ganoo-Fletcher, landscape director at PRP
PRP’s landscape team highlight why good landscape design is crucial for people with dementia, and reflect on how gardens have become important safe and secure places, especially during recent periods of ‘lockdown’.
A well-designed landscaped garden in the right setting can help improve the quality of life for residents, create enjoyment and encourage those with dementia to live a more active and stimulating life which can help combat the effects of declining cognitive ability.
The principles of landscape design for elderly people with cognitive and sensory impairment is an increasingly active field of study. Evidence suggests that as visual and cognitive ability changes, certain people with dementia will increasingly function on a sensory rather than intellectual level. We should design environments in ways that make them easier to use by older and disabled people, while keeping hold of the qualities that make them special, fun and engaging.
The therapeutic benefits of a safe, attractive and carefully planned external living environment should be well recognised. The potential for exposure to sunlight to assist the body’s manufacture of vitamin D is of particular importance in older people. A well-planned garden can form part of a holistic treatment plan providing scope for physical exercise to relieve tension or aggression alongside personal space for reflection and privacy. Landscape design should reflect changing needs and allow for activities that are familiar and encourage participation, encouraging an active lifestyle and supporting their physical and emotional wellbeing.
Four key themes to consider when designing for dementia:
Access, Movement & Orientation
Memory & Mental Mapping
Shelter & Shade
A good example of where these principles have been implemented, is PRP’s recently completed care home development at Beachcroft House. The scheme is set within a Victorian terrace surrounded by trees and gardens, and at ground level a landscaped garden that is easily accessible for care home residents. Short walking routes have been created that lead to sheltered spaces to sit and rest and there is also a large area with space for tables and chairs so that when the weather is good, residents can eat outside. Dementia-friendly design considerations such as these ensure residents can benefit from their natural surroundings and can improve their mental health and wellbeing.
As we look ahead to the post-pandemic world, well designed landscaped gardens are going to play an even more important role for everyone’s health and wellbeing and not just for those with dementia. It will be our responsibility as landscape architects to put these considerations at the forefront of our designs and ensure we are creating places that are inclusive for all people.