DEMENTIA-FRIENDLY GARDEN by Deacon Corinne Smith

Deacon Corinne Smith, deanery deacon based at the benefice of The Good Shepherd, Lake & St Saviour on the Cliff, Shanklin (Isle of Wight and diocese of Portsmouth) has been very involved in the creation of a dementia-friendly tranquillity garden at the church of the Good Shepherd.   She writes
The thinking behind it was that we wanted to create a dementia-friendly garden, for prayer, relaxation and eg reminiscence sessions and quiet days, as part of one of our mission-priorities to become dementia-friendly churches.
We also wanted to provide a tranquil space for the whole community to enjoy and to create an environmentally-friendly habitat which would encourage biodiversity.
With the particular needs of people with dementia in mind, we took advice about the design & how to make a garden which would be a tranquil space, and which also offered a sensory experience.
Elements included:
– Path following a loop, so people can go on a “journey” round the garden, in either direction. The path is wide enough for two people walking side-by-side, or for a wheelchair
– Calm colours for plants – eg mauves, White, yellow
– Plants which had scented leaves, or perfume eg herbs, lavender, rosemary, Jasmine, roses
– Plants which would provide texture and movement – eg bamboos and grasses
– Somewhere to sit
– A statue as a focal point
– butterfly/ bee-friendly plants
– bird feeder/ bird-box/ bug-Hotel
We will be adding a water-feature & other elements in due course, as funds permit.
We enlisted the help of Community Payback to dig-out and lay the paths, but everything else has been done by parishioners.
We received grants from the Parish Council £200; Southern Vectis £50.00; Funeral Director William Hall £150 and the rest of the money has been raised through donations from fundraising events and individual donations.
As we are a United Benefice with two churches, I set up a project group consisting of two people from each of the churches to plan and oversee the Project; and it had the spin-off benefit of drawing the two church communities together.
We started meeting at the beginning of the year, to shape our vision and to draw up the plans for the garden design and, on 27th April, had our first “all hands of deck” day, to clear the site and to mark out where the paths would go. We have since had ongoing group and individual gardening sessions throughout the summer to get phase one of the planting completed.
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We are fortunate that someone has joined the church as a consequence of the Project, who would seem to be heaven-sent!
He started coming to sit quietly in the church, as he lives very nearby in unsatisfactory accommodation, and is unable to work due to on-going mental-health issues.
He gradually started coming to services and, in the course of conversation, I discovered he used to do gardening work! He then started helping in the garden and was delighted when I invited him to become our  “groundsman”! He has done sterling work coming over most days to do weeding and watering throughout the summer.
We have installed a water-butt so we are self-sufficient, water-wise.
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We are looking forward to using the garden in all sorts of ways, as a part of our missional activity in relation to serving the spiritual needs of those who live in the area; & I’m very excited to see what the future holds!
We may well affiliate to the Quiet Garden Trust, so any Quiet Days we hold can be included in their programme.
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Unveiling the statue of the Good Shepherd

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