Being with supportive, encouraging and understanding people – whether they are volunteers, group participants, family carers or paid staff – is an important part of the whole garden experience.
In a community garden, small groups work together side-by-side on real projects – not ‘pretend’ or forced activities. Learning and sharing takes place together.
Interactions during these activities are natural, genuine and easy-going. As some participants say:
- “It’s like general life.”
- “People need to get to know each other incidentally.”
- “I don’t know anybody, but I am talking to everyone.”
Find a way to build connections between garden users, for example by displaying photos or notices on pin boards, or by sharing and displaying art and crafts made by garden users. If people have a sense of belonging or even ownership about the garden they are more likely to want to stay involved.
Sometimes people with dementia may feel unsafe, insecure or uncomfortable in the garden, especially if they are trying to do something unfamiliar or even if they are just having a bad day. It helps if there are enough people about to observe and support people with dementia as needs arise. Some people may need to be accompanied by a friend or relative. Having a quiet space within the garden to retreat to could also help.
Visits to community gardens are “outings for all people”, according to one participant. Another says community gardens work well precisely because of “community – that’s the whole reason!”.
For older people and children, learning and doing activities together is a great approach. Both contribute to the experience, but often in different ways.
In the DIGnity groups, the adults are genuinely interested to find out what the children are learning about. For example, if the kids are being taught about insects in the garden, the adults will most likely learn something too. The groups want to welcome and accommodate children, for example, by putting in a playground within the garden area.
What activities can young and old do together?
- planting seedlings
- clearing stones from a walking path
preparing vegetables for cooking
Find out more
Gardens that care: Planning outdoor environments for people with dementia
This Alzheimer’s Australia (now Dementia Australia) 2010 resource presents advice across a range of issues, including a section on socialisation and how gardens can support and promote this.
This photobook shares poems, cartoons and photos from a regular gardening group in Exeter, UK – and shows how supportive and sociable such a group can be for people with dementia.
Watch the ABC’s Gardening Australia story here on Buds n Blooms, the Fremantle-based intergenerational gardening group which has been running since 2014.
Griffith University’s Intergenerational Care Project studied two different models of intergenerational care in Australia from 2016-2019. Find out more on the project’s website.