Creating a sensory garden in a senior community has many benefits. It is a perfect activity for all residents to enjoy and an ideal outdoor space that can be used all year long.
Gardens are known to have a therapeutic effect, which is why they are so helpful to people living with dementia. These settings allow them to decompress in a peaceful location. Some residents have a reduced ability to use their senses, so interacting with a beautiful garden can help stimulate nearly all of them simultaneously.
A sensory garden is made up of a collection of plants and other natural features that are designed to be accessible to everyone, from children to elders. Many senior living communities have built sensory gardens for their residents as a way to help them improve physical fitness, health, and mood, along with relieving stress and boosting cognitive ability. The concept is not just for gardeners, but for everyone to come together to build, create, maintain, and enjoy.
Sensory Gardens & the Award Winning SPARK® Program at Frontier
Frontier utilizes sensory gardens as an important part of our well respected SPARK program. SPARK was inspired by the teachings and research of Maria Montessori and Dr. Cameron Camp and provides meaningful and life-enhancing experiences for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The program focuses on engaging our residents with proven rehabilitative strategies that strive to heighten interaction, optimize cognitive skills as well as promote a sense of purpose and accomplishment despite what deficits may be present.
In addition to enjoying the many sensory stimulating aspects of spending time in the garden, our residents are given the opportunity to choose which seeds to grow, help in the planting process and participate in the overall caretaking of the garden area.
Through our SPARK program, it is a joy to see our residents’ eyes light up when they take part in activities around the garden, whether the time spent be an old favorite or a newly discovered interest.
We celebrate our seniors as the unique individuals that they are by providing them both meaningful experiences and proven therapeutic techniques to help them retain their cognitive capabilities to the fullest extent possible.
Benefits of Sensory Gardens for Seniors with Dementia
Dementia symptoms include forgetfulness, disorientation with time and place, changes in mood, problems with language, and more. Sensory gardens are effective in helping decrease some of the debilitating aspects of dementia, as well as improving overall mood and keeping residents physically and mentally active.
When people living with dementia participate in gardening, it benefits their overall quality of life. They don’t even have to garden, they can simply be present. Having access to a sensory garden allows residents to engage in direct sunlight and fresh air, which helps their bone density, sleep cycles, and calmness.
Promoting Physical Activity
Having a sensory garden promotes residents’ physical activity. A designated area like this allows everyone to walk, garden, sit, stand, and enjoy the outdoors at their own pace. Increased physical activity is important for the elderly, as it helps decrease falls and prevents injuries. When residents use the sensory garden, it alleviates depressive symptoms and contributes to the brain releasing serotonin, which promotes a sense of calm and a feeling of focus.
Sense of Community
Creating and maintaining a sensory garden gives residents a sense of community. Having a space to relax and enjoy with others improves social interactions, gives residents a sense of ownership, and allows them to have a new environment to share with visitors. Everyone can participate in planning, decorating, painting, planting, watering, etc. This helps boost confidence, as residents feel a sense of accomplishment when creating something new.
Allows Room for Creativity
Sensory gardens can take weeks to plan and create, which is where there is so much room for input and innovation. Allowing residents to participate in the planning and execution of the garden can be uplifting and just fun. Residents can paint pots, decorate wind chimes, and decorate other garden accessories. They can plan out what plants and herbs will be used to help stimulate the senses.
Tips for Creating a Sensory Garden
When creating a sensory garden it is important to thoughtfully pick the plants and accessories that will be used in it. When choosing plants that stimulate the senses, you want to incorporate different colors, smells, and textures. The more unique the plants and features, the more enjoyable the garden.
When picking plants, remember to keep residents’ safety in mind by selecting plants without spikes and thorns.
Choosing Sensory Plants
- Sight: It is important to choose plants that are visually appealing. Picking a unique variety is critical in order to fill the garden with different colors, shapes, patterns, and sizes. Some ideas for extra features include lights, bird feeders, birdbaths, outdoor rugs, different paths, benches, and patio furniture. Residents can paint and design flower pots and wind chimes as activities for the garden. Having unique colors and features makes the garden more appealing and enjoyable to relax for everyone.
- Smell: It is important to incorporate a variety of smells in the garden, as the sense of smell is linked to our memories. The plants chosen can range from floral-type scents to herbs like basil, mint, lavender, rosemary, etc.
- Sound: Adding wind chimes will create soothing sounds in the garden and installing feeders will attract lots of chirping and singing from visiting birds.
Frontier is Here to Help
Providing the best care for a loved one coping with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Our beautiful sensory gardens are just one of the ways that we help our seniors live their lives with a sense of peace, meaningfulness and purpose.
If you would like to learn more about how Frontier can provide your loved one with an unmatched level of care, we invite you to visit one of our beautiful properties, take a tour and speak with our friendly and knowledgeable staff.