Recently I attended the launch of Dementia Friendly Havant at Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, organised by Dementia Friendly Hampshire in collaboration with Havant Borough Council. My colleague, Victoria, joined me.

We were treated to the the Travelling Dementia Suitcase and Pop-Up Dementia Theatre provided by Nature Therapy CIC. Dr Kim Brown, CEO and Founder of Nature Therapy CIC, gave a masterclass on the benefits for people living with dementia (and everyone) of stimulating all the senses and being outdoors experiencing nature. If a person’s mobility, living arrangements or health conditions mean that being outdoors is not possible, bringing the outdoors to their home environment is of immense value.

Kim, along with her colleague, Kitty, led the group in a drumming exercise to the Cherokee Morning Song, focusing on the rhythm of the heartbeat, tapping in to our earliest memories and uniting everyone with a calmness that was tangible.

We all then entered the pop-up theatre and engaged in activities that sensitised touch, smell, sound, sight and taste.

The progressive impact of dementia will affect how an individual experiences the world. The functioning of all senses are disrupted, people can lose their sense of taste and smell, whilst becoming more sensitive to noise and light. Problems with perception of depth and space are common features of several types of dementia. Nature Therapy uses natural resources to address sensory impairment. Research has demonstrated that sensory activities reduce agitation and anxiety and improve sleep patterns for people with dementia and alleviate stress for family carers.

The event in Havant reminded me of the work of Charlotte Overton-Hart. Charlotte is Project Lead for 'Dementia Inclusive Gardening' (DIG) on allotment Plot 22 in Brighton. Charlotte has written about her work for Unforgettable, click here to read her blog about DIG published last year.

As Spring is upon us, the warmer weather makes it easier for people with dementia to experience the outdoors. Fresh air and exercise promote good health for everyone, and this is nonetheless the case for people living with dementia. Research studies suggest that regular exercise reduces the risk of developing dementia. For people with a diagnosis, good health is vital for counteracting the damaging effects of dementia and living well.

Wendy Brewin, Creative Spaces Project Manager at the Sensory Trust in Cornwall was featured on Countryfile last Sunday talking about the benefits of walking for people with dementia and their families. Interviewed by Sir Tony Robinson, himself affected personally by dementia in his family, Wendy spoke about how outdoor activity has the effect of building confidence and improving mental health and wellbeing.

‘I know it sounds silly’ she said, ‘it improves people’s confidence and how they feel about themselves’. ‘That doesn’t sound silly at all!’ replied Tony Robinson. Joining a walk with the ‘Happy Wanderers’, Tony experienced first-hand how this group, co-ordinated by the Sensory Trust, boosts people's self esteem and sense of well-being.

The Countryfile episode can be viewed on BBC iplayer:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00038g2/countryfile-somerset

If you are involved with a project that enables you to take part in outdoor activities, or the carer of a relative who benefits from outdoor activity, we would be pleased to hear from you. Email me at askbarbara@unforgettable.org to let us know about the ways in which nature enhances the quality of your life.