Dementia Friendly Gardens

People-Centred Therapeutic Outdoor Spaces

Dementia Friendly Gardens | Care Home Gardens

In response to the governments National Dementia Strategy, Newtown Saunders Ltd commissioned TrinityHaus, Trinity College Dublin to carry out research into this area and to develop a ‘Dementia Friendly Garden Toolkit’ for the creation of people‐centred therapeutic garden spaces. This builds upon dementia friendly design research completed by TrinityHaus in conjunction with Trinity’s Dementia Services Information and Development Centre. Earthbound Design contributed to the research project.

Research has proven that whether a person with dementia is living at home or in a long term care setting, access to outdoor space is a crucial factor in relation to their health and wellbeing. If outdoor space is readily accessible and safe it makes it easier for people with dementia to go outdoors to enjoy nature, socialise, or carry out gardening or other external domestic activities. All of these activities have been shown to be therapeutic for people with dementia and are therefore an important part of dementia friendly design.

Following a detailed literature review, the research team identified a range of dementia friendly design considerations which fall into the following categories:

  • Overall design and details
  • Location and entry to garden
  • Layout and pathways
  • Planting
  • Seeding
  • Lighting
  • Boundary and edge conditions
  • Edge spaces
  • Maintenance
  • Amenities

These dementia friendly design considerations have been used to inform a Dementia Friendly Garden (DFG) Toolkit approach as illustrated. This toolkit ensures a human centred design approach where the design process fully engages with all key stakeholders, including the person with dementia, where this appropriate. It also ensures that the dementia friendly design features are based on best practice and will thus result in an evidence based design approach.

Dementia Friendly Garden Toolkit | Dementia Friendly Gardens Ireland


This research has also sketched out two prototype designs based on the garden in a private dwelling and a shared garden in a supported housing scheme as shown.

Dementia Friendly Prototype Garden for Single Dwelling
Dementia Friendly Prototype Garden for Single Dwelling
Dementia Friendly Prototype Garden for Supported Housing or Nursing Home
Dementia Friendly Prototype Garden for Supported Housing or Nursing Home

Building The Prototype Garden

To trial this approach, Newtown Saunders Ltd. worked with TrinityHaus and Sonas APC to engage with a number of care centres to select a care centre in which to build a dementia friendly garden and evaluate the results. As a result of this process, St. Clare’s Nursing Home in Glasnevin, Dublin was selected.

St. Clare's Garden Before
St. Clare's Garden Before
St. Clare's Garden After
St. Clare's Garden After | Dementia Friendly Garden Complete

Next Steps

Working with TrinityHaus, the process is ongoing with plans to:

  • Develop further prototype gardens to evaluate various approaches & features in order to further develop the overall toolkit & design process
  • Develop documentation around the toolkit to support the design process and overall design and build procedure. This should include briefing documents and design guidelines
  • Identify a range of appropriate dementia friendly physical components that can be used as part of the build process
  • Identify a range of dementia friendly plants and associated tools and products that can be safely and easily used by people with dementia