Dementia Inclusive Gardening
Being here is... soul-nourishing (DIG Participant)
Whether or not we are living with dementia, more and more research is confirming the benefits of connecting with nature, both in terms of our physical and mental health.
Dementia Inclusive Gardening - or simply, DIG - was a joy-filled collaboration between Story Chaplain and community allotment PLOT 22 in Hove between 2016 and 2021. Once a month, whether and season permitting, people living with dementia alongside their carers and companions gathered together with volunteers and session hosts to be outdoors, connect with the seasons, and enjoy quality time together.
Each two hour session followed the simple structure of welcome and check-in around the fire. After this we completed a variety of gentle gardening tasks, then gathered once again for a seasonal snack harvested during the session, and a reflection and celebration of our time together. The garden tasks during each session were guided by the interests, strengths and pace of the participants. This could equally be weeding or tending tomatoes as making posies of herbs or flowers. Our main goal was always to spend unhurried, quality time together. To get a sense of our time together, do have a read of Absolutely Cour-geous, or Doreen's Story.
‘The quality of experience that you have created is very special… everyone brings themselves to the experience and the impact of this reverberates through every interaction be it carer, volunteer, friend, daughter, father, grandson, leaders and hosts of sessions. The experience is heartwarming, enlightening and nutritious in all senses along with uplifting the spirits of all involved, truly magical. Everyone feels the ripples of green healing.’ (Visitor to a DIG session)
Beyond the sessions themselves and the positive impact they had on participants - from DIG regulars, to one-off guests - it was our hope that this collaboration inspired and encouraged others to think about how they might begin to develop their own DIG projects. We were delighted that DIG was a finalist in the Social Prescribing Awards for Best Nature Project 2019.