ENLIVEN – University of Exeter University of Exeter

A University Project for Dementia in the UK

A University Project for Dementia in the UK


Getting out and about in nature is good for us. It helps us stay healthy and active, stimulates our brains, keeps us in contact with other people, and brings pleasure and joy to our lives.

Older people living with cognitive impairment, which might include Alzheimer’s disease, another type of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke, say that nature helps them in lots of ways. It makes them feel more engaged, more enthusiastic, more hopeful, more resilient and better able to deal with challenges. This could be spending time in a park or garden, or it could be a visit or organised outing to a special place.

They also say there are things that get in the way and stop them enjoying nature as much as they would like. These include lack of facilities, such as seats where you can have a rest, features like awkward steps that make it hard to get around, fear of getting lost due to lack of signs, staff seeming unhelpful, or a sense that older people are unwelcome. We need to remove these barriers and change attitudes.

The kinds of places where people go to enjoy nature are managed by businesses and organisations. Many providers are keen to improve their offerings for people with cognitive impairment. Our research programme asked what could be done to make outdoor places easier for older people with dementia and their family members to visit.

There were four stages to the programme. Outdoor activity providers, people with dementia and their families and carers were involved in every stage.

Stage 1

Setting the scene

We found out what the current situation was by talking to people and looking at what work had been done already.

Stage 2

Finding new ways to help

We worked together to come up with lots of ideas to test out.

Stage 3

Testing things out

We worked together in different areas to test out the ideas and see how well they worked.

Stage 4

Telling everyone what we’ve learned

We have shared what we have learned as widely as possible.