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‘In the Dirt With Dementia’ | Blog
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‘In the Dirt With Dementia’

August 28, 2014

By Editor
To describe an avid gardener is to know someone (quite likely) with dirt stained and calloused hands. In most cases, it is also to recognize someone whose heart and soul has blossomed, much like the ‘fruit of his or her labours’. The garden, be it in the anticipatory planning and preparation, in its early days of growth, or in its blossoming beauty or bountiful harvest, has a restorative quality that should never be taken for granted. As far back as the 4th or 5th century BC, the healing property of nature and gardens was known (see Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, China et al). Research today tells us that one of the benefits of digging in the dirt is, in fact, the dirt itself. Within it lies a natural bacterium (Mycobacterium vaccae) that triggers the release of serotonin which in turn, elevates mood and decreases anxiety.

Historical perspective and scientific research aside, it is enough to know that the satisfaction and contentment one gets through gardening, would be motivation enough to base a program on it for people with dementia. Indeed many care facilities for seniors have a gardening type program. At the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex (ASLM), we’ve been offering a social recreation program called ‘The Garden Club’ now in its fourth year. Just one of several interactive and engaging programs that  ASLM offers (an art, scrapbooking, knitting, cooking, physical activity and intergenerational choir program are the others), the Garden Club is held monthly, run by a trained facilitator and aimed at early to mid-stage dementia clients. The Garden Club, along with the other social recreation programs, offers our clients an important opportunity to socialize and engage with others. Studies indicate that people with dementia need the socialization and fellowship that one can only get with human interaction. The Garden Club, when either ‘working the dirt’ in the secure and private garden on site at the Alzheimer Society’s during the summer or doing garden-based crafts during the winter, allows the clients the opportunity to reminisce as they chat about gardens and projects past. The process improves their fine motor skills as they execute the garden-related task and eliminates stress and anxiety. Furthermore indications are that it maintains and possibly improves their cognitive skills. The very hopeful and therapeutic act of gardening crosses all borders and barriers - country, religious, age, gender and health. It is one of the most beneficial things we do as humans. As evidenced by the restorative results of Garden Club on our clients, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, may benefit most.
 
 
For more information about Garden Club and our other social recreation programs visit our website.