Our Parents
Senior Health
Senior Living Options
Finances & Legal
Products for Seniors
About Us
A pink banner with the OurParents logo

Gardening for Dementia Patients

Written by Casey Kelly-Barton
 about the author
2 minute readLast updated April 20, 2023

Gardening has benefits for everyone, from toddlers to adults, because it provides a connection to nature, time outdoors, and a deeper appreciation for living things. Some researchers and geriatric care providers say gardening can be an especially rewarding activity for people with dementia, thanks to the intensely sensory nature of gardening – think bright colors and varied textures – and its ability to reduce stress. You can help a family member or friend with dementia reap the benefits of garden time with some planning and a little work.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Benefits of gardening for dementia patients

A 2012 review of the research into gardening’s effects on senior health in general and seniors with dementia in particular found several benefits, although the review authors said more research is needed. Still, gardening can help people living with dementia by stimulating the senses, triggering positive memories, lifting mood and reducing stress. Some studies have found a link between outdoor activities such as gardening and reduced feelings of pain, while others have found that gardening can help with the attention problems that are common in people with dementia.
The stress-busting benefits of gardening apply to caregivers, too. New research indicates that regular gardening – or other regular physical activity – can cut adults’ Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 50 percent.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Tips for creating a safe garden for people with dementia

The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK has published a book called Taking Part: Activities for People with Dementia that includes tips on making a safe garden space. Among the guide’s recommendations are:
  • Enclose the space to make gardeners with dementia feel more secure and to prevent wandering.
  • Provide easy-access pathways that provide a level, non-slip surface for walking and are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
  • Lay out a figure-8 path to work with, rather than against, your loved one’s tendency to wander.
  • Provide comfortable seating around the garden area, including shady spots for sun protection.
Plant your garden with thornless, non-toxic plants to prevent accidents. Consider planting edible plants or herbs, as well, to encourage a healthy diet. Provide gloves, hats, non-slip shoes, kneeling pads or stools, and safe (not sharp) tools with easy-grip handles. Garden gear in bright primary colors can be easier for dementia patients to identify on sight.

Talk with a Senior Care Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

Benefits that extend beyond the garden

Situate the garden near a window if you can. There’s some evidence that just looking at the garden from indoors can help people with dementia by reminding them that the garden is there and calling up other positive memories. If the garden produces flowers for arrangements or fresh vegetables and herbs for the table, the benefits extend even farther.
With free guidance from your local extension service, you can choose garden plants that will thrive in your local climate. The right assortment of plants can give the garden blooms and/or produce throughout the year, along with fall foliage and some evergreens to brighten up winter days. You may also want to include plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds for extra visual interest and to benefit the local environment as well as your loved one with dementia.


Meet the Author
Casey Kelly-Barton

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom (of which OurParents is a trademark) and the reader.  Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site.  Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not recommend or endorse the contents of the third-party sites.