There are many ways for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to continue to enjoy the great outdoors. Residents at Country Court Care Homes participate in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, a nationwide initiative to record the number and type of birds they see in their gardens.
There are many benefits of outdoor activities for people living with dementia, but how do you get someone with dementia to go outside if they are a little reluctant? Our 10 outdoor activities for people living with dementia should give you a few ideas to get you started. Dementia-friendly activities can be enjoyed outdoors both in the garden at home and out and about in the local area.
Bird watching – a great opportunity to get together in the great outdoors and feel connected to nature. Birdwatching is a very flexible hobby, you don’t even need to go outside. Watching from a window, especially if there is a birdfeeder nearby, is still very entertaining. Watching birds and listening to birdsong gives people some quiet time has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It’s also a great pastime for both older and younger people to enjoy together, often providing a common talking point, for example when grandchildren visit. Topping up bird feeders is a useful task for people to do regularly too. Taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch gives a sense of purpose as well as giving added interest for those interested in conservation.
Gardening – a great way to combat stress and relax. From mowing the lawn to planting seeds or watering pot plants, there are plenty of jobs around the garden that people with cognitive impairment can engage in. Watching spring bulbs appear or vegetables ripen helps people to connect with the season and prompts opportunities to reminisce too.
Take a walk - We can all appreciate the benefits of a breath of fresh air and a change of scene. Getting a daily dose of Vitamin D is great for maintaining strong bones and muscles. From a brisk walk around the park, to a gentle stroll to the end of the road and back, maintaining mobility is essential for keeping healthy and can provide a welcome distraction.
Play a game – from quoits, catch or balloon tennis to golf or bowling, there are plenty of games to keep the body and mind active. Repetition can be reassuring, so setting aside time every day for a game can help. Returning to games played in childhood can be very enjoyable for those living with dementia and may trigger memories and talking points.
Dine al fresco - from sitting in the garden with a cup of tea to taking a picnic to the beach, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with nature throughout the year. Try going outside at different times of the day; an early morning cup of coffee listening to the dawn chorus or a late-night hot chocolate star-gazing in the garden.
Shopping – a simple trip to the shops can help people retain their independence and help them feel connected to their local area. Making a list can help keep someone with dementia busy. Keep trips short and simple but encourage people to continue to make their own choices and remember to allow lots of extra time.
Attend a community event – visit your village fete, take a stroll around your local market, visit a music or arts event. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. These events may provide opportunities for reminiscing or enjoyment of being in the moment if people do not remember attending the event later.
Join a group in your community – there are many dementia-friendly groups in towns and villages across the Country. Some will be special interest groups where people can continue their hobbies and interests such as golf or nature with the support of trained facilitators. Others will offer companionship as a way of giving carers a short break, search online for your local groups.
Take a day trip – a day out can be a wonderful tonic, a trip to the seaside, local garden centre or place of interest. Planning is key, arranging transport or checking access for those who have limited mobility and booking tickets in advance are key to a stress-free day out.
Photography – take a camera, mobile phone or tablet with you when you’re out and about. Taking photos encourages people to notice their surroundings and your photos can be reviewed later prompting discussions about where you went and what you saw.