Research Fellow in the TrinityHaus Research Centre, Tom Grey, is part of a team that has just won a silver medal at Bloom for its Dementia Friendly Garden.
The aim of the Dementia Friendly Garden is to raise awareness of dementia, and to illustrate how design — and a supportive and therapeutic physical environment — can support people living with dementia.
Research Fellow Tom Grey said: “Just being at Bloom would have been enough as it gave us the chance to illustrate the power of design to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, but to actually win a medal was fantastic. It really reinforced the message around the therapeutic role of outdoor space — and that’s a real success for this project and team.”
President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, along with his wife, Sabina, took time to visit the garden, where the team had the chance to talk them through the design and discuss the importance of design and the built environment for an inclusive society.
Dementia can bring difficulties with short-term memory, comprehension, orientation, spatial awareness, visual perception and mobility. These difficulties are accommodated in the Bloom Dementia Friendly Garden, where layout, colour, planting and customised garden furniture create an attractive, safe and therapeutic outdoor space.
The garden is designed to tap into a person’s retained skills, abilities, interests and memories. Plants from the person’s youth, such as daisies, lupins, lavender or camomile trigger memories and facilitate reminiscence. Scented flowers, flowing water and birdsong stimulate the senses. Zoning and colours provide visual cues, helping with orientation and wayfinding. The accessible raised planter, mini glasshouse and tool shed, and vertical planter give easy access to gardening activities and engagement with nature.
The garden was designed with one couple in mind — the stone wall and wild flowers and grasses reminding Pauline of her childhood spent on a farm, and the water feature reminding Andrew of the stream that ran near his childhood home.
The Bloom Dementia Friendly Garden has grown out of Enterprise Ireland-funded research conducted by TrinityHaus for Newtown Saunders, as part of Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Voucher scheme. This initiate also builds on previous research carried out by TrinityHaus with colleagues from Trinity Engage (the Centre for Research in Ageing) including a collaboration with the DSIDC’s Living with Dementia Programme, which resulted in research and design guidelines for Universal Design Dementia Friendly Dwellings, and ongoing work with Professor Des O’Neill and other Trinity colleagues, involving research into Dementia Friendly Hospital Design.
Along with TrinityHaus, the Bloom Dementia Friendly Garden team also involves members of landscape company Newtown Saunders Ltd, and charity Sonas apc, which provides training, resources and support for those on the dementia journey.
The garden is sponsored by the TLC Nursing Home Group, which is a community-based private nursing home provider, with centres in Santry, Maynooth and Citywest. It is supported by Understand Together, a public support, awareness and information campaign led by the HSE, working with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, and supported by more than 30 partners from across society.
The Bloom Dementia Friendly Garden, and the projects outlined above, are all underpinned by the fact that Dementia Friendly Design can create supportive and therapeutic physical environments contributing to the health and wellbeing of people with dementia, while also supporting their families, and carers.
The Bloom festival is one of Ireland’s largest events and was attended by over 115,000 people in 2016.