Is it nice outside? Mental Health Foundation collaborates on new study into dementia and the natural environment

11 March 2016

Working in collaboration with Natural England, Dementia Adventure, and Innovations in Dementia, the Mental Health Foundation has today welcomed the publication of a new study into dementia and the natural environment – Is it nice outside? Consulting people living with dementia and carers about engaging with the natural environment.

The report highlights how engagement with nature and the great outdoors could be improved for the benefit of people living with dementia and their carers.

In the largest project of its kind so far, people living with dementia and their carers were asked about the outdoor activities that they take part in and the places where they go, or most want to go. It reveals what motivates them to go outside and what barriers they think need to be overcome to improve their access to the outdoors and maximise the beneficial effect this brings for them.

The report makes a series of recommendations that could encourage wider use of natural spaces by people living with dementia and their carers. For example, managers of outdoor spaces could work with local dementia action alliances to develop a Trip Advisor ratings approach to providing information about local dementia-friendly open spaces.

Other recommendations from the report address ways to make visits to green spaces more dementia-friendly, including: implementing the principles of dementia friendly communities at outdoor sites; improving training for staff on how to sensitively and effectively support people living with dementia; and, a greater understanding by managers of outdoor spaces of the facilities and activities people living with dementia need.

Toby Williamson, Head of Development and Later Life, at the Mental Health Foundation says:

"The benefits of outdoor activity for peoples’ wellbeing, whether it’s walking, wildlife watching, or just ‘being in nature’, are well known. But concerns about safety and access can mean that many people with dementia do not share in those benefits. The research that the Mental Health Foundation and Innovations in Dementia undertook for Natural England and Dementia Adventure in this report showed that people with dementia, and their families and friends, wanted to continue to visit green spaces, such as parks and rivers, and participate in outdoor activities.

"It identifies simple, practical changes that organisations responsible for green spaces can make to ensure they are dementia accessible and inclusive, so people with dementia and their carers can continue to enjoy being outdoors."