Planning a Garden for Persons With Alzheimer's

Having access to a nice garden can meet several needs for people with Alzheimer's and dementia and their caregivers. Good garden design can allow people who are experienced gardeners to continue to participate in this meaningful hobby. It can also be part of an Alzheimer's treatment plan for those who are very restless or agitated and who like, or need, to walk a lot.

Older man gardening.
Ronnie Kaufman / Larry Hirshowitz / Getty Images

Benefits of Gardening

  • Provides physical exercise, opportunities to relieve tension, frustration, and aggression
  • Offers a meaningful activity
  • Allows the person with dementia to take care of flowers and other plants
  • Provides personal space for reflection and privacy
  • Provides time outdoors in a safe place
  • Provides stimulation with color, smells and sounds of wildlife

Good Design for Alzheimer's Garden

A wise design choice for a garden designed for people with dementia is a figure-of-eight looped path, or similar, simple returning-path system. You can plan a garden that allows access outside but always leads the wandering person back to their house or building.

Think about visibility and observation so caregivers can relax if they use the time for separate pursuits.

Good garden design should cater for the able-bodied as well as those who have problems with mobility. There should be seating, such as benches along the paths, to allow places for rest and enjoyment of the beauty.

Adding some raised planter areas can allow easy access to planting and tending to the garden. These planters can be placed about the height of a wheelchair so that the person can simply reach over to the plants.

The garden design should also include some shelter from the sun and the wind, such as a gazebo. Bushes and trees provide structure and direct movement. If possible, choose many perennials (plants that grow back each year) so that you don't have to replant every year. Fill the garden with bright flowers. Place herbs, lavender, and other plants so that when brushed they will release their fragrance.

Providing a Safe Garden

Safety issues are central to good garden design for people with Alzheimer's or dementia. The design should include:

  • Pathways that are smooth and low in glare
  • Even walkways without steep gradients or steps
  • Wide enough walkways so that as dementia progresses, wheelchairs can easily fit on the paths. As dementia moves to its later stages, people eventually lose physical abilities, such as walking, over time.
  • Use upward bevel edges on concrete walkways. This can keep wheelchairs from rolling into lawns or landscape beds.
  • Consider placing an attractive fence around the garden so that the person with dementia can't accidentally wander outside of the garden.
  • Handrails can be used along the pathways to help those who have difficulty in walking.
  • In gardens, you need protection from the sun and the wind throughout the four seasons of the year.
  • Use of nonpoisonous and non-toxic plants. Plants can harm people if they eat parts of the plant. Others can cause skin rashes and irritation.
  • Avoid dark, shadowy areas. Due to visual spatial changes, people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia can mistake darker areas for holes.
  • Too much light reflection or dark areas are not helpful to older people who can have problems with their sight. Alzheimer's and dementia can negatively affect eyesight.

Use the Knowledge of Those With Dementia

Include experienced gardeners with dementia in planning and designing the garden. Those with a lot of knowledge and experience about gardening can contribute in varying ways, from active involvement to picking their favorite flowers.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Nakayama N, Suzuki M, Hamaguchi T. Relationship between knee extension strength and gait styles in patients with dementiaMedicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(12):e14958. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000014958

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and the eye. Published May 23, 2019.

By Christine Kennard
 Christine Kennard is a psychiatric nurse practicing in the United Kingdom and co-author of "Alzheimer's Disease: An A-Z For New Caregivers."