Experiencing nature, touching plants, seeing doves, smelling flowers and recognising familiar things. But safe paths, rubber tiles and things ‘to do’ are certainly also elements which can be used in gardens which have been especially designed for elderly dementia patients.

A number of these gardens have now been designed and constructed in the Netherlands and the experiences have all been very positive. Of course such gardens need to satisfy specific requirements. The garden needs to be safe, it must be designed in such a way that things can be touched and experienced, whilst it should also evoke memories from days gone by.

Stimulation, recognition and safety

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. Both the patient and his surroundings will suffer as a result of this condition. A garden can help to ease the suffering, both for the patient as well as his or her family. Patients can actually become calmer if the garden offers sufficient recognition, for example by planting plants the patient may recognise from his or her earlier life and be encouraged to start talking about it. If the garden offers sufficient stimulation in the form of smells, sounds or images which can be touched, then this can even slow down the worsening of the disease, as well as having a distracting effect. If the garden includes animals, or even play equipment, too, then the family can also feel comfortable about bringing grandchildren along on visits. This means a garden especially designed for people suffering from dementia and their symptoms can have a therapeutic effect in a variety of different ways.

Different ways of being creative

The gardens we are now showing you are all based on the above principles: stimulation, recognition and safety, but they all do this slightly differently. One garden will have a path going right around the garden, which will always end up back at the start, another garden may have been modelled on an old-fashioned monastery garden and will include more straight lines and structures. There are gardens where elderly people can ‘help’ and gardens where they can hang up their laundry. But we felt by far the best idea was the bus stop. This is because people suffering from dementia will often want to go back home. This bus stop will allow them to do something with this tendency.

Sharing experiences

We found four examples of gardens for dementia patients. These examples offer inspiration for the next garden. Please do share any experiences you may have with these gardens for dementia patients on this website or on our social media site. We are also curious about finance models and whether any indoor gardens are being constructed in care homes. After all, the weather in the Netherlands is far from great at the best of times and these types of environments can certainly also be offered inside these homes.

Nursing Home de Dilgt in Haren


Nursing Home d’n Horstgraaf in Venlo


Nursing Home De Vloet in Oisterwijk


Nursing Home Groote & Voorster in Deventer