Green space can help those affected by early stage dementia, through creating meaningful experiences and increasing feelings of self-worth.

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A 10 week pilot programme held in Callander Wood, Falkirk, provided the basis for Mandy Cook, a PhD student with the University of Dundee to carry out an initial study on dementia and the woodland environment. The research is supported by Scotland-focused case studies on dementia and the woodland environment.

Led by rangers, it involved three hours of woodland-based activities once a week, including: walks, tree planting, fire lighting and woodland cooking, nature photography, willow sculpting and tree and bird identification.

This innovative approach could complement traditional health approaches. It offers a chance for participants to stay active and connected with their community, and to keep their independence as long as possible. Given the results, Scottish Forestry has supported programme delivery in Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Edinburgh and Inverness and has supported dementia awareness training for outdoor leaders and forest rangers in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland.

Evidence summary

The PhD research study Forests as places of mental well-being: the meaning and use of urban forests by people with early-stage dementia is being carried out by Mandy Cook, through the departments of Geography and Social Dimensions of Health Institute (SDHI).

Forestry Commission research note 'Forests as places of mental well-being for people with dementia' contains

Forests as places of mental well-being for people with dementia (PDF 2.3MB) contains evidence from the literature review, early research and interviews, and discusses the first results of the programme.