The Big Lottery Fund is donating £1.3 million to transform outdoor spaces at 30 care homes across the UK.
The 30 projects will be overseen by national charity Learning through Landscapes, which will work with residents and staff to make gardens and outdoor settings more suitable, stimulating, accessible and more like familiar natural environments people have experienced in the past.
The health benefits for older people spending time outdoors are increasingly well understood, with organisations such as the Age Concern, Sensory Trust and Learning through Landscapes pushing for better research.
“Access to nature has been shown to reduce anxiety, improve concentration and improve physical mobility,” says Juno Hollyhock, executive director, Learning through Landscapes.
“Evidence also suggests that outdoor activities can re-ignite latent skills and memories. This project brings together elements such as garden design, staff training and support, client based consultation and local knowledge to create innovative and exciting garden spaces. We believe that bringing together the very best in current thinking around designing for people living with dementia will give many more settings the chance to try out low cost solutions in their outdoor spaces in the future,” she adds.
Learning through Landscapes says that outdoor spaces at care homes are not used enough, partly because they do not encourage residents to get involved. They tend to be tidy, easy-to-maintain, highly-manicured spaces without areas to grow plants or wild corners that attract wildlife, the charity notes.
The 30 homes that will take part in the Lottery-funded projects will draw on lessons from a pilot in Herne Bay, Kent, where the care home’s outdoor space was transformed by a landscape gardener who introduced paths that always return to the beginning, memory beds with familiar flowers which were bright and highly scented, a seaside area with a beach hut and shells as a reminder of visits to the coast, bird boxes and feeding stations positioned so that birds visit the garden, and improved seating.
Learning through Landscapes is being supported by several partners. Groundwork will manage and deliver the landscaping works; Thrive will deliver the training to care home staff; Age UK will provide expertise on project design and implementation for people living with dementia, as well as identify appropriate settings; and the University of Kent will deliver the evaluation and support the consultations.
The 30 venues will be selected to ensure a variety of gardens with a range of features are included.
The first ten locations to be announced are:
Craigbank Care Home (Bupa), Saracen Street, Glasgow. Three Cliffs Care Home, Cefn Bryn Lane, Penmaen, South Gower, Swansea. Age NI Meadowbank, Donaghaine Rd, Omagh. Age UK West Sussex, Town Barn Road, Crawley, West Sussex. The Dales Care Home, Main St, Ellenborough, Maryport, Cumbria. Age UK Maidstone, The Goodman Centre, Egremont Road, Maidstone, Kent. Age UK Manchester, Holmfield Residential Care Home, Darley Avenue, Manchester. Edith Moffat House, Albion Road, North Shields, Tyne and Wear. Cedar Grove Wellbeing Centre, Cedar Grove, Wallsend, Tyne and Wear. Evesham Community Hospital, Waterside, Evesham, Worcestershire.
Learning through Landscapes is recruiting now for project officers to oversee the project. Click here for details.