make a garden easy to get around

There is now lots of information available about how good design can support people with dementia and mobility problems.

Shelter must be suitable for all weather conditions – but it still has to be open to the elements to some extent, so it doesn’t feel like just another indoor space.

Consider different areas for different purposes and social situations: perhaps one space where lots of people can gather, along with other smaller spaces that can be quieter.

Watch out for distances from the garden car park to the garden shelter.

Toilets must be accessible and open. This is essential!

Ideally, paths should lead people through a garden. Walking along a well-designed path is a joy in itself.

A nice free area... Let's go!

Where did you find somewhere so beautiful?

There is not enough cover here.

Uneven surfaces can be challenging, but paths do not need to be concreted to be safe. Firm gravel paths are fine for walkers and wheelchairs, and they fit with the feel of the garden. A wheelchair is the same width as a wheelbarrow!

People with dementia can be unsteady on their feet and often use mobility aids, such as walking sticks, wheelie walkers or even wheelchairs. You might like to provide some spares, and there needs to be space to use and store these within the garden.

Signage can guide people as they move about the garden and encourage independence.

Having seats or benches dotted around the garden will give people options for stopping along the way.

Practical tips

What sort of seating works best? A variety of seating, including:

– moveable seating
– stools which can be placed next to garden beds
– comfortable seating with armrests

What can help promote moving safely around a garden?

– a clear, well-designed path
good signage
– a range of seating options
even surfaces

What spaces can engage the senses?

– ponds and sandstone walls
– flower beds and areas with butterfly-attracting plants
– beautiful spaces
– areas where people can sit and have a drink

Find out more

This Alzheimer’s Australia (now Dementia Australia) 2010 resource presents advice across a range of issues, including accessibility, orientation and safety.
This checklist presents 9 key questions to think about (for example, on signage, surfaces, and toilets) when reviewing the suitability of an outdoor space for people with dementia, and would be good starting point for reviewing a community garden.
The Dementia Enabling Environment Virtual Information Centre is a website packed with resources relating to design – including garden design. Click on two interactive guides – one for a home garden, the other for care facility gardens – to learn about key features that can help make gardens more accessible for people with dementia.

This blogpost from Dementia Australia announces the opening of a dementia-friendly garden in Port Macquarie in NSW and goes on to present good introductory information about designing a dementia-friendly garden. A short film introducing the garden is available to watch here.