The training introduced dementia awareness with an emphasis on sensory perception and benefits of connection with nature, and it included an introduction to planning & leading dementia inclusive walks and other activities. The walks, or ‘sensory strolls’ are an opportunity for people living with dementia and their carers, families and friends, to get outdoors in a safe and supportive way. This helps more people living with dementia to maintain their connection with nature and the outdoors and to retain a sense of adventure. The walks create new opportunities for people to live well with dementia in their communities.
Dementia Adventure Project Leader, Kath Pyke spent two days with the MHA team exploring:
The feedback from the training was excellent. The delegates found the two days ‘inspiring and empowering’. They said the highlights were:
“The exercises, which were very valuable in making me see how vulnerable people with dementia are and how much they rely on volunteers & staff.”
“Being encouraged to think about the emotional effects of outdoor space, especially for those who rarely have access to it.”
“What to look for in planning a walk and how to do a risk assessment.”
“Learning about other things to do during our walks, not just walking.”
“Team working and sharing ideas.”
The team at MHA, led by Sally Metcalfe, were fully engaged with the training and implemented their action plans from the training really quickly, by setting up a ‘walk and talk’ program in the local area.
‘Walk and Talk’ is a weekly walk in Horsforth Park followed by refreshments in the park café. It has been a real success with a ‘core group’ quickly forming and meeting every week – even through the winter months. The scheme not only supports people living with dementia to connect to the outdoors, but it also helps the local MHALive at Home scheme to support people they may not have otherwise been able to engage with.
The walks have proven to be of real benefit to people living with dementia. The group have bonded and have found the informal atmosphere enables them to talk openly about their lives and the challenges they face. They share ideas and encourage each other. Its success has meant MHS Horsforth Live at Home are now exploring how to offer additional walks to be able to include more people. Some participants have grown in confidence since they started coming on the walks – with one lady saying she goes to the park alone for a walk as she “now knows the park”. Two participants live next door to each other but previously didn’t speak, now they know they have a neighbour they can turn to for support.
For carers, some have expressed how being able to walk together makes them feel “more like a couple” or they enjoy getting time with people in a similar situation to them. Other carers have chosen not to come on the walks, instead choosing to have some time alone, knowing their partner is content and in a safe environment.
The walks have been an incredible success. The well-being of people living with dementia and their carers has improved in measureable ways. The plans to expand the walks will enable even more people to benefit from this invaluable service. This project is an exciting legacy of the training Dementia Adventure completed with MHA, as it expands Dementia Adventure’s aim to see people living with dementia and their carers to live well, connect to nature, themselves and their communities.
Dementia Adventure have carried out training with many partners which have led to regular sensory strolls in their areas including Age UK Norwich walks in Eaton Park, Whitlingham Park and Earlham Park, Nottingham Wildlife Trust – Attenborough Nature Reserve and others. If you are interested in training on how to set up a regular sensory walks programme in your area, please visit the Dementia Adventure website or call 01245 237548.