How gardens can help people with dementia to recall fond memories

It can be easier for people with dementia to remember details from years gone by. The ‘Memories Are Made of This’ show garden at Bloom this year will whisk garden lovers back to the 1950s

According to the HSE’s Dementia: Understand Together campaign, half a million of us have had a family member with dementia. So many of us will know that for people living with dementia, the past is a lot easier to remember, a phenomenon known as reminiscence.

In previous years, Dementia: Understand Together has focused on the health and social benefits of getting out in the garden with their show gardens at Bloom Festival, and this year they are promoting the idea of stimulating reminiscence.

The Dementia: Understand Together show garden at Bloom 2019 is named after the song made famous by 1950s crooner Dean Martin, Memories Are Made of This. It aims to take people back to the 1950s, a time when gardens provided not just food for the table, but food for the soul too.

It features a manicured formal space with box hedges and tea roses which are associated with the area, as well as a practical fruit and vegetable patch. The garden is the creation of award-winning designer Robert Moore.

“This garden is about offering a person with dementia the opportunity to rekindle fond memories from their childhood garden of the 1950s, and celebrating these in the present,” Robert says.

“Whether it’s the scent of jasmine drifting through the garden or listening to Dean Martin on the wireless echoing around, it’s about enabling a person living with dementia to call to mind these memories. It’s about opening up opportunities for them to share their experiences and stories with others. The garden asks us to see the beauty and value of the individual, represented by all the different flowers, and reminds us to always see the person and not the condition they are living with,” he says.

Unfortunately we’re all going to have to reckon with dementia in some capacity as the condition is on the rise in Ireland. The more we can support and show solidarity with the people with dementia and their families, the better prepared we can be. More than 4,000 people are developing dementia in Ireland each year. It’s estimated that there are 55,000 people living with the condition here. That number is expected to more than double to 113,000 by 2036.

You can find out more at www.understandtogether.ie.

If you want to stimulate reminiscence in your own garden at home, try these tips:

SCENT: Think of the scents that transport you back in time and a tea rose instantly comes to mind. Plant one this autumn for an elegant addition to your garden that will cast minds back to the gardens of our parents and grandparents.

SOUND: Wind-chimes can gently usher us back to peaceful days spent in the garden. Alternatively, play classical music in the garden on your phone or dust off the old gramophone and set it up in the garden shed to provide a nostalgic soundscape of Elvis Presley to sunny days spent in the garden.

TOUCH: Remember the feeling of plucking daisy petals as a child, saying ‘she loves me, she loves me not’? Or getting in trouble for picking your grandmother’s plants when innocently putting together a bouquet? Other nostalgic flowers and plants you could introduce to your garden include lupins, delphiniums, primulas and geraniums.

TASTE: Remember being sent out to the back garden to grab a head of lettuce or a handful of onions to prepare for supper? Install a small vegetable patch can take loved ones back to a simpler time when kitchen gardens were the norm. A small raised bed in a sunny spot in the garden can be manageable and fruitful.

SIGHT: Does the sight of a mischievous gnome or a retro flamingo take you back to the olden days? These colourful additions to the garden bring instant nostalgia and will make any guests to your garden smile.

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