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Why Nursing Homes Should Have Gardens

Researchers have found yet more evidence for the mental health benefits of greenery. A new study from the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K. finds that gardens may provide therapeutic relief for dementia patients.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, the research examined the effects of gardens on the mental and physical well-being of dementia patients in nursing homes through 17 previous studies.

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“The availability of gardens or outdoor areas in residential homes may offer a range of benefits for people with dementia, including opportunities for active engagement with gardening, walking in an outdoor environment, and sitting in soothing surroundings,” the researchers write. Though the findings are only preliminary, they report gardens seem to lower the agitation levels of dementia patients. (It’s common for dementia patients to become agitated or aggressive.)

Though the study’s authors hypothesize that this might be because the garden environment provides sensory stimulation or triggers memories of similar experiences, more research remains to be done to explain the precise therapeutic mechanism at play. “There’s a lot we don’t know about how a garden’s design and setting influences its ability to affect well-being,” according to Ruth Garside, one of the paper’s authors, “yet it’s clear that these spaces need to offer a range of ways of interacting–to suit different people’s preferences and needs.”

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