Improving Accessibility to Green Spaces for People with DementiaBy Elouise Mullen -
Summer at last. British Summertime is the perfect time to enjoy long strolls though the woods, picnics in the park, and even a spot of birdwatching. Lovely. Even better, emerging evidence shows that engagement with the great outdoors can have a significant positive impact for people with dementia. Recent studies have shown that dementia sufferers who partake in activities in outdoors environments such as parklands can see benefits including; improved emotional state: reduced stress, agitation, anger, apathy and depression; improved sleeping and eating patterns; improved verbal expression, memory and attention; improved awareness, sense of well-being, independence, self-esteem and control; as well as improved social interaction and a sense of belonging. (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4513819616346112?category=6502695238107136)
This research is important, as it has also recently emerged that people with dementia often face certain barriers preventing their enjoyment of outdoor spaces. These barriers include; a lack of information about what places can offer and how suited they are to people with dementia; inadequate support to get to places and use their facilities; lack of transport; lack of confidence; and fears to do with safety. This is despite the fact that only 20% of people with dementia consider their condition as a barrier preventing them from accessing outdoor spaces. Carers, however, recognize the barriers listed above, with 83% believing that dementia limits a person’s ability to engage outdoors. (http://content.yudu.com/web/1jybr/0A1vxp9/TCare13/flash/resources/20.htm)
Research found that wildlife or birdwatching is among the most popular pastimes for people with dementia, and that 25% of those with dementia interviewed said that they regularly took part in this activity. Another popular pastime is informal walking, with 38% of those interviewed taking regular walks outdoors. Those interviewed preferred to visit places near water, such as lakes, coastlines and rivers, as well as city parks and gardens. Despite this, there are still many outdoor spaces not being utilized by people with dementia, such as allotments, city farms and community gardens.
Plans are being made to make outside spaces more accessible to people living with dementia. The government recently released a review of nature-based interventions for mental health care, which you can read here (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4513819616346112?category=6502695238107136). The review proposed 9 recommendations that, if implemented, could see green spaces more widely accessible to people with dementia, and offering more services to them. In brief, the recommendations are as follows:
1) Work towards the collaboration of organizations in the green care sector to work in partnership to promote the sector more widely to policy makers, commissioners, and service users, and to raise awareness within the green care sector of the importance of a common message and language.
2) Health and social care commissioners should use the term “green care” to describe the activities within the scope of nature based interventions for people with a defined need. This will demonstrate leadership and facilitate clarity.
3) Make a clear distinction between green care, as defined in recommendation 2, and public health programmes for the general population.
4) The green care partnership should publish an annual status report showing the nature and scale of green care for mental health care in the UK.
5) Encourage green care service providers to register with local online directories of services, and to advertise their services to potential users.
6) The green care partnership needs to better promote and share evidence of the positive effects seen in people due to the green care services provided. This needs to be promoted within the sector, to commissioners, and to potential service users and their families.
7) Members of the green care partnership must be provided with information and guidance on the use of standardized, reliable, and validated measures of effectiveness.
8) The green care partnership should support and encourage members to participate in largescale demonstration trials to test and evaluate new approaches to scaling up delivery.
9) The green care partnership organisations should work with their members to facilitate access to, and development of, larger scale health and social care contracts.
Like what you read? Elouise also writes at www.elouisewanders.wordpress.com