Can forests stimulate well-being in those with dementia?

Alan Air explains about a truly innovative project in Cumbria that hopes to harness the natural power of woodland to promote heightened feelings of well-being in those suffering from dementia.
Writing in Cumbria Crack, he reports...

CUMBRIANS living with dementia are to take part in an innovative lottery funded pilot project to see if forests can help stimulate their well-being.

​'Secrets and Senses’ run by woodland expert Iris Glimmerveen hopes to harness the power of trees which are known to give off relaxing and stimulating chemicals.

Iris Glimmerveen Director of Woodland Innovations

“At the very least I hope that those people taking part will ‘feel’ better,” she said.

“Whenever I walk through forests I emerge feeling sharper, more in tune with myself and with a greater clarity of thought.

“It would be wonderful if people living with dementia could share this too.”

The project is run with the Alzheimer’s Society and backed by the Big Lottery Fund.

“We are pleased to be working with Woodland Inspirations to offer a unique experience to people living with dementia and their carers,” said Tara Edwards, Alzheimer’s Society spokesperson Tara Edwards.

“This will offer people the opportunity to spend time outdoors whilst appreciating the benefits of nature.”

Iris, Director of Woodland Inspirations, a Penrith-based organisation that emphasises the important relationship between people and trees, is now looking for volunteers to come forward.

“People living with dementia and their carers are invited to take part in my ‘Secrets and Senses’ walks in the woodlands of our beautiful county,” she explained.

“I’ve called the scheme ‘Secrets and Senses’ because trees have secrets that work on our senses.

“A lot of people might not realise it but trees emit aromatics and volatile chemicals that actually benefit human beings, stimulating them to relax and feel more positive about life.”

During the walks volunteers will be encouraged to stimulate all their five senses – and perhaps their sixth sense – by taking part in various activities.

These include crushing leaves and flowers, using crayons to depict a colour in the woods and listening to a story about the fabled Green Man of the Woods which is linked to spiritual and psychological rebirth.

With each session volunteers will be asked to describe their feelings before and after using a ‘blob tree’.

This is a tree with lots of human characters sitting on branches depicting different types of emotions.

“It’s not a scientific measure but more a tool to see if participants feel differently,” said Iris.

“I am very excited about the project and I hope lots of people from all over Cumbria will come forward.”

Volunteers should contact the Alzheimer’s Society :

Tel: 01900 607280.

Article first published in Cumbria Crack 19/07/15

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  • 21 July 2015