Study explores how gardening can benefit the quality of life of people with dementia

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We know gardening can help people flourish, and now a study will explore how it can particularly benefit those with dementia.

A joint study by The University of Queensland and The University of the Sunshine Coast is investigating how 'gardening with a purpose' can benefit the quality of life of people with dementia, and nurture their sense of purpose.

UQ Honorary Fellow and UniSC psychology lecturer Dr Kris Tulloch said it was already known that spending time outdoors was beneficial for people living with dementia, so this study would go a step further.

Gardening is a really useful activity for people with dementia as they can pick it back up more easily than a craft project where they may have trouble remembering what they were up to.

In this research, we have added an extra element – gardening with a meaningful cause. We want to investigate how a 'sense of purpose' impacts people living with dementia and their carers.

Through our partnership with The Mini Farm Project in Samford just outside of Brisbane, people will see exactly how their efforts help people in need, which we hope will add another layer to their gardening experience."

Dr Kris Tulloch, UQ Honorary Fellow and UniSC Psychology Lecturer

The Mini Farm Project is a charity working to resolve food insecurity by creating a network of charity farms to grow food for people in need with their first farm in Samford.

The project donates about 50 kilograms of produce a week to Meals on Wheels at Pine Rivers.

Participants in the study will directly contribute by planting, watering and weeding in small groups under the supervision of experts twice a week for up to seven weeks.

They'll also complete surveys and interviews on their experience.

The Mini Farm Project Founder and Chief Executive Officer Nick Steiner said the research project would help his overall goal to build a community.

"Having this opportunity to work with Dr Tulloch allows us to be more than just a farm, we become integrated into the community and build relationships," Mr Steiner said.

"One in six adults in Australia hasn't had enough to eat in the past year, and even more shockingly, 1.2 million children have gone hungry.

"This project helps us spread our message and work with others to grow food for those in need."

Dr Tulloch said stigma around dementia could impact a person's quality of life once diagnosed.

"This is why projects like this are crucial," Dr Tulloch said.

"There are a lot of misperceptions around the experiences of people who have dementia and this can lead them to be excluded from activities and social connection.

"But it's so important they are given opportunities to create positive interactions and maintain a sense of purpose."

The study, funded by the Australian Association of Gerontology, is currently accepting applications from people with dementia and their caregivers to take part in the project.

The project may be suitable for people who do not need to use a wheelchair or walker to move around. For more information on how to get involved, email Dr Tulloch at [email protected] or text 0434 706 063.

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