5 Tips to Designing Gardens and Outdoor Locations for People with Dementia

Dementia can be a very complicated condition. People who suffer it forget who they are, where they are, what they are doing, and more. When noticing they can’t remember anything, they feel lost and get in a very confusing state of mind, which limits them and makes them distrust everything around them that they cannot recognize. This is why it is essential to provide them with an environment that makes them feel comfortable, and gardens and outdoor spaces can offer a sense of peacefulness.


1. Set the perimeter

Whether caregivers or a family taking care of their elders, it is important first to set a perimeter that is visible from anywhere in the house or easy to keep an eye on and delimit it with fences to prevent someone from leaving the safe areas.


2. Defining entrances and exits

Just as a perimeter has to be well set, it’s ways of access have to be well designed and easy to find and recognize. It is important that people with dementia can move freely from inside and outside their home. Doors should be wide enough to allow people with disabilities to move freely as well, and entrances and exits should be marked to be found quickly and be open at all times.


3. Making a path

Even though people with dementia have to move in their surroundings freely, it is important to design a path they can follow without really thinking where they are going. This path should let them flow free around the garden but still allow caregivers to keep them under control.

Paths have to be designed to lead people towards a destination, through which they can find distractions such as plants and flowers, benches, ponds or fountains, etc., anything that could be an interesting object to put their attention for a while and then move to another thing.


4. Plants for fun an distraction

Plants are obviously going to be the primary focal point in a garden, so they have to be adapted for people with dementia. The kind of plants that should be in this garden are the ones that provide sensory stimulation. People with dementia like to touch and feel things, so plants have to be placed at an achievable level and have to make beautiful sounds, and have bright colors, strong smells, and interesting textures.


5. Good lighting

When the night falls, it is challenging to recognize the features of the garden, so it is important that the path, entrances and exits and every object that needs to become visible, has a lighting system incorporated. It is also good to illuminate certain parts of doors, like keyholes or doorknobs, which are generally hard to find in the dark.

People with dementia are as curious and active as kids, but the difference is that they simply forget things and lose track of time. If you want to learn more about garden design for people with dementia, don’t forget to buy the book “Designing outdoor spaces for people with dementia,” edited by Mary Marshall and Annie Pollock.