Nature versus nurture? How about we do both?

A project in Cornwall, which started just over a year and a half ago has been working to promote the use of outdoor spaces to enrich and improve the quality of life for those with dementia.

Creative Spaces – which is organised by the Sensory Trust - uses the natural world as a tool to help people with dementia “regain a sense of value, increase their social connections and share skills and knowledge to enhance their own lives and those of others,” explained Wendy Brewin, Creative Spaces project manager in The Guardian recently. “Simple, creative nature-based activities are used to encourage and support people initially, helping them to settle in and feel comfortable in a group of their peers,” she adds. Walking groups, gardening teams, woodland workers, fishing groups and more work and relax together on projects, offering members friendship, support and encouragement.

People really value their connection with nature, and being stuck in a care home removes that connection. Making the outside world more available to them is so important.

It is great to see projects like this. All too often people living in care homes can feel disconnected from the outside world; and it is a distance from nature that can be quite debilitating. People really value their connection with nature, and being stuck in a care home removes that connection. Making the outside world more available to them is so important. People with dementia love to be outside, to see nature, to hear the birds and the wind in the trees – it’s a very sensory experience.

“As these stories show, nature can play a vital role in helping people with dementia to rediscover themselves and to connect with others, regain their sense of self-worth and confidence, and feel in control again.,” says Wendy. “Immersing ourselves in nature highlights just how deeply we are connected to the world around us and how important it is to maintain that connection.”

Nature is such a safe, benign, friendly world. We relate to nature all the time, so it’s very familiar, and to be isolated from it is crazy. In fact, the effect of nature can be quite nurturing. It can soothe and calm, it can help us get space and distance from the immediacy of our own lives. It can be refreshing and inspiring. It can be healing and wholesome. What a wonderful environment for people living with dementia to be exposed to. Let’s see more of this wherever we can.

How do you work with your residents in nature?

Find out more about Creative Spaces here.