‘Gardening with a purpose’ program to enhance the lives of those living with dementia

Mar 17, 2023
It's estimated that there were 401,300 Australians living with dementia in 2022. Source: Getty Images.

A joint program from the University of Queensland and the University of Sunshine Coast aims to improve the quality of life for people with dementia through gardening.

Previous studies have indicated that gardening can offer several benefits for people living with dementia, some of which include improved memory, a reduction in stress, and increased feelings of calm and relaxation.

UQ School of Psychology Honorary Fellow and UniSC psychology lecturer Dr Kris Tulloch is well aware of the benefits that can come with gardening for those with dementia and hopes the current study can go a step further to improve the quality of life for those impacted by the condition.

“Gardening is a really useful activity for people with dementia as they can pick it back up more easily than a craft project where they may have trouble remembering what they were up to,” Tulloch said.

“In this research, we have added an extra element – gardening with a meaningful cause. We want to investigate how a ‘sense of purpose’ impacts people living with dementia and their carers.

“Through our partnership with The Mini Farm Project in Samford just outside of Brisbane, people will see exactly how their efforts help people in need, which we hope will add another layer to their gardening experience.”

The objective of the Mini Farm Project is to tackle food insecurity by establishing a network of charitable farms that cultivate food for individuals in need.

Each week, the project contributes approximately 50 kilograms of fresh produce to Meals on Wheels at Pine Rivers.

Those involved in the study will make a direct contribution by working in small groups, under the guidance of experts, to plant, water, and weed twice a week for seven weeks.

Additionally, participants will fill out surveys and participate in interviews to share their feedback and personal experience.

In addition to helping those impacted by dementia improve their quality of life, The Mini Farm Project Founder and Chief Executive Officer Nick Steiner said the project would help him build a community and “grow food for those in need”.

“Having this opportunity to work with Dr Tulloch allows us to be more than just a farm, we become integrated into the community and build relationships,” Steiner said.

“One in six adults in Australia hasn’t had enough to eat in the past year, and even more shockingly, 1.2 million children have gone hungry.”

Tulloch explained that stigma around dementia could impact a person’s quality of life following diagnosis, highlighting the need for such projects.

“This is why projects like this are crucial,” Tulloch said.

“There are a lot of misperceptions around the experiences of people who have dementia and this can lead them to be excluded from activities and social connection.

“But it’s so important they are given opportunities to create positive interactions and maintain a sense of purpose.”

According to the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, it’s estimated that there were 401,300 Australians living with dementia in 2022.

According to predictions, the population of Australians with dementia is expected to exceed 849,300 people by 2058, more than twice the current number.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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