Skip to content

Green Dementia Care

Green dementia care in Extra Care and Residential Care settings – opportunities, barriers and good practice.

The Housing and Dementia Research Consortium, (HDRC) hosted by the Association for Dementia Studies, has been successful in obtaining funding from the Abbeyfield Research Foundation to carry out a 12 month mixed methods pilot study that will be an important step in developing an understanding of the opportunities for people living with dementia in residential care and extra care housing to engage with the natural environment, to explore what works and why, and to identify the main barriers and enablers to engagement. The study will be a collaboration between the HDRC and ADS, two organisations with substantial experience of carrying out research into promoting quality of life for people living with dementia across a wide range of settings. 

The term “Green Care” refers to a range of health-promoting interventions encompassing living organisms (plants and animals) and natural elements (e.g. the weather). Green care links traditional health care to gardening (horticultural therapy), agriculture (green care farming), animals (animal assisted interventions) and exercising in the natural environment (green exercise). Increasing numbers of people with dementia are supported in residential care, while extra care housing is now widely viewed as an alternative form of accommodation that can provide opportunities for maximizing independence. However, many people in these settings have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment, often due to organisational concerns about safety and security. There is growing interest in the physical, mental, social and spiritual impacts of green care for people with dementia and some evidence suggesting that engagement with the outdoors and nature is important for people living with dementia and can be of benefit to their health and wellbeing. However, overall the evidence base is very limited and fragmented and often anecdotal or based on individual case studies. 

There is a clear need for large scale, multi-site, multi-provider research to better understand the impact of interaction with the natural environment on people living with dementia in different accommodation and care settings, particularly in terms of the mental, physical and spiritual health and wellbeing outcomes. Large scale research in this area is necessary in order to inform policy and practice concerning green dementia care, including any impacts on the health and wellbeing of individuals and the cost effectiveness of care. Prior to such research it is necessary to establish exactly what green care provisions currently exist for residents with dementia along with stakeholder perspectives of the main barriers and enablers, as proposed in this study. 

The pilot study which commenced in November 2016 aims to:

  • examine the current evidence for the impact of interaction with the natural environment on people living with dementia;
  • identify opportunities available to people living with dementia in extra care and residential care settings in the UK to engage with nature;
  • explore the barriers and enablers to interaction with nature in these settings for people living with dementia.

This pilot study will inform the development of a large scale multi-site/multi-provider research project involving in-depth evaluation of the impact of nature interventions on the health and wellbeing of people with dementia in care settings.