Forests as Places of Mental Well-being for People with Dementia
This Research Note is based on a PhD research study ‘Forests as places of mental well-being: the meaning and use of urban forests by people with early-stage dementia’. The study examines and develops ways for people with dementia (especially those in the early stages) to engage with nature, and with other people, in the context of trees, woodlands and forests.
Initial results from the study found that a pilot programme of activities, led by Forestry Commission Scotland (now Scottish Forestry) rangers in an urban woodland setting, provided an overwhelmingly positive experience for people with early-stage dementia, by offering meaningful experiences that contributed to well-being and feelings of self-worth. The woodland environment also provided a ‘library’ of resources and stimulation. The programme helped people with early-stage dementia remain active and connected within the community, enabling them to maintain their independence for as long as possible, and provided support for carers. Such programmes can be seen as a new and innovative way of engaging with people with early-stage dementia, which could complement traditional therapeutic interventions. As the Note stresses, an ‘end of the road’ approach to people with dementia is no longer acceptable. We need to explore more ways of providing care with an emphasis on empowerment and maintaining the best possible quality of life. It is hoped that this Note will provide a valuable resource, not only for people who manage woodlands and other green spaces, but also for health-care professionals.