Northern Ireland

'Magical garden' opens in east Belfast for dementia sufferers

Magical garden
Image caption The garden has been opened at Palemerston Care Home

A "magical memory garden" to help people suffering from dementia has opened at an east Belfast care home.

It includes a caravan for recalling family holidays, a farmyard and a pets corner, where residents and visitors can care for animals.

The garden, at Palmerston Residential Care Home, is thought to be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Image caption The aim is to stimulate memories of dementia sufferers

It will also be open to people in the community who have dementia.

Geraldine Gilpin, chief executive of Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association, which owns the care home, said the aim was to create a "magical space".

"For people living with dementia it is important to stimulate different senses," she said.

Image caption A pets corner allows residents and visitors to care for rabbits and chickens

"They may forget where they are living in time and place, but they can recognise and experience aspects of a garden - the open sky, sounds of the outside environment, and trees blowing in the wind.

"This is a freedom we can all connect with."

'Everybody is an individual'

The paths of the garden have no dead ends, which could seem like a barrier to people with dementia.

Image copyright Palmerston Care Home
Image caption The garden aims to stimulate different senses

Other features include the opportunity to tinker with polish and clean a car, or just sit in it and listen to the radio, a garden shed a space to grown vegetables and a secret garden - a secluded space for reflection.

Mrs Gilpin said it was important to create different environments for different people.

"Everybody is an individual and everybody's dementia is different," she said.

"Each of our residents is at a different stage of dementia and needs a different stage of care and assistance.

Image caption The garden features a caravan for recalling family holidays

"It is important to have a range of activities and solutions for these various stages."

'Rekindle old memories'

TV presenter Sarah Travers, an ambassador for The Alzheimer's Society and who opened the garden, lost her father, Ian, to an aggressive form of dementia in 2013.

"Research conducted by The Alzheimer's Society in 2013 showed that only 35% of people living with dementia get outside every week," she said.

Image caption The secret garden offers a secluded space for reflection.

"We all benefit, both psychologically and physically, from having access to an enjoyable outdoor open space and studies show that for people with dementia this can be particularly important.

"The Magical Memory Garden will not only help to rekindle old memories but will also create new emotional memories.

"It will provide meaningful experiences and purpose for residents and visitors, as well as helping to sustain relationships and enhance the quality of life for residents, staff and families."

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