We designed Worthing's first age and dementia-friendly therapeutic garden at the front of the Sidney Walter Centre in the centre of town on a tarmaced area that was being used as a car park. As well as the groups we work with, local residents and passers-by can also enjoy the sight of trees, fruit, vegetables and flowers growing where once there was only tarmac and brick. Doreen Read, centre manager at ‘The Sid’, said at the opening in August 2014, “The Sid is a very old building that needed a lift. I can’t believe the difference it has made. The building holds lots of memories and now we look forward to more being created in this beautiful community space.”
The garden is intended to provide stimulation for mind and memory and was developed by Breathing Spaces with a group of people recently diagnosed with dementia. This group was a result of a collaboration between Breathing Spaces and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Memeory Assessment Service. The group has been meeting weekly since May 2014 to plan, plant and nurture the garden. At the beginning, they all agreed that the group was important for three reasons: they could meet socially with people facing the same sort of challenges; they would be getting pleasure from growing plants; and they would have a place and time, independently of their loved ones, to be purposeful and productive. Gemma Dorer, Occuptional Therapist at the Memory Assessment Service, says, “People who have recently been diagnosed with dementia often tell us that they have stopped doing the activities they enjoy and have stopped going out because they lack confidence in their abilities. We know there is lots of evidence to show that keeping socially active and stimulated helps to maintain memory and thinking skills. Therefore, we are so pleased to be able to offer our clients such a stimulating and enabling group which draws on people’s strengths in a relaxed and fun social setting”. The group made a joint presentation about the benefits with Gemma and ourselves to the 2015 annual conference for occupational therapists in Brighton.
The garden, which was funded by a WSCC Social Enterprise Fund grant to Breathing Spaces, Community First and donations from family and friends of Mr Anthony Page, has raised beds at different heights for seated working as well as ground-level beds. It also has two ‘living wall panels’ made from palettes, one for adults and one for children, and ‘hanging baskets’ made from old colanders. The plants appeal to all five senses, with silver birch and grasses for sound and touch, vegetables and fruit like beans, fig, rhubarb, and blackberries for taste, herbs and roses for scent and a mainly blue, yellow and white colour scheme for the benefit of partially sighted people. Many of the plants and the seats are ‘old-fashioned’ to feel familiar and prompt reminiscence.
We designed our second therapeutic garden at this community centre on land that was overgrown and unused, transforming it into a safe and reassuring but stimulating and enjoyable natural place for people of any age or ability to use, including those living with dementia. The key features include:
We were funded by WSCC Social Enterprise Fund to build the garden and we worked with William Bauress and Caroline Elderfield from Oak Grove College to design the space. As far as possible we have used natural or reclaimed materials, locally sourced. A Community Payback Team helped with construction and Oak Grove College students built the gate. Several volunteers and local groups were involved in hedge planting, some of which was donated by Cortis Avenue Wildlife Garden. We also received generous donations of wood and two benches from Tree House Timber. Northbrook College carpentry students designed, built and installed a tree seat.
The garden was officially opened by Amanda Waring, actress and campaigner for older people’s dignity and rights, and Sue Rennie, Alzheimer’s Society in November 2014. Breathing Spaces runs therapeutic programmes of structured gardening activities on a Tuesday for people living with dementia. Hazel Thorpe, Hon Sec. on behalf of the Trustees, Maybridge Keystone Centre, says "We whole heartedly support Breathing Spaces in the objective to reach as many people living with dementia as possible. Having met some of the people already involved it seems they are getting more from life than before". The Maybridge Children And Family Centre also use the garden on a Friday. There are opportunities for volunteering and, of course, anyone is welcome to visit and enjoy the garden whenever the centre is open.
See also: Case studies
We built a reminiscence and sensory garden area at Linfield House, Guild Care's home and centre for people living with dementia and nursing needs, funded by our WSCC Social Enterprise Fund. It was opened by Worthing's Town Crier, Bob Smytherman in the summer of 2014. We involved the residents in choices about style of pergola, seating, other features and, of course, plant types, colours, textures, scent, flavour and personal meaning. Jacqui Swindells, day centre manager, said, "This is an exciting activity for people with dementia as so many of them can participate in different ways." The final design includes wooden raised beds and galvanised metal 'cattle trough' type raised beds planted with lavender, rosemary and sage as well as a climbing Star Jasmine that is being trained over the metal pergola. There is a veg trug and seating and the residents grow vegetables in our fortnightly assisted gardening sessions to plant in the raised beds. One of the relatives has donated a climbing rose and others donate flowering plants like cosmos. The residents take great pride in this area of the garden which they have a sense of ownership about and they enjoy harvesting runner beans, sweet peas, lavender and tomatoes, or just sitting outdoors on fine summer days enjoying the fresh air.
We were commisioned to create a design for the New Tyne Resource Centre for people with dementia in 2014. This was an exciting opportunity to enhance the extensive grounds and make them more user-friendly, sensory and interesting. Residents and respite vistors can access the grounds at any time because it is secured and because the building is all ground level. However, some areas were inacessible because of the uneven grass so we extended the patio, put in a circular path and hard standing for raised veggie beds, added sensory borders, trees and shrubs on the journey around the building and created a new path to a new activity area with raised beds and seating. Some of the residents and staff were involved in the design. The Centre fundraised for us to build the garden in stages and we also secured a grant from Worthing County Local Committee for the hard landscaping materials. Staff helped to build one of the borders and volunteers from Southern Water and elsewhere helped on several volunteering days. Summit, a local social enterprise (now folded), helped with constructing some of the paths and a local company, ISS Facility Services provided some much needed labour and equipment for free to finish the job. The garden and grounds are well-used for gardening, relaxing and walking.
Luci and John had already built a terrace for the residents with a ramp to the garden. We have done a design for the whole garden but have started by building the sensory area below the terrace. It is planted with some of the residents favourite plants, including scented shrubs, cheerful colour, year round interest, tactile grasses and a rustling silver birch. The 'after' photos below from immediately after planting and 18 months later show how the garden has filled out to reveal its full impact. Luci told local newspaper The Herald recently, "(Claire and Lisa) have been professional throughout the project. We are all looking forward to seeeing the garden in full bloom."
Margaret wanted her domestic garden to be less work, with raised beds so that she doesn't have to bend so much and, as a pensioner, she was on a tight budget. We laid a weed-proof membrane and wood chip over the dandelion-infested lawn at the front, positioned the beds away from the walls where the snails hide, and created a good cutting edge for the back lawn. The only thing we bought was the membrane, some wood posts and nails, the rest was free-cycled stuff. Margaret now has a Garden Share arrangement with a local family who grow veg in the raised beds. Photos below also show the 'before and after' in the other half of the garden.
We invite you to attend your first Garden Club session with no obligation. If you like it and want more, you can then sign up and pay for a programme that includes the trial session.
Tel: 07508 178590 Claire
Tel: 07827 924151 Lisa
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We are based in Worthing, West Sussex. We run two Garden Clubs in the community and a Community Allotment - addresses are on the home page.
Breathing Spaces Garden Therapy
Community Interest Company
(limited by guarantee)
Company Number 8825167
c/o Andrew M Wells Accountancy
99 Western Road
Lewes BN7 1RS