Taking pictures of trees

Wild for nature: People affected by dementia invited to join ‘random acts of wildness’

A nature challenge is encouraging ‘random acts of wildness’, even adapting to coronavirus restrictions.

30 Days Wild is an annual challenge created by The Wildlife Trusts, a charity bringing people together across the UK to connect with the natural world. 

Now in its sixth year, 30 Days Wild inspires people to do something nature-related – a ‘random act of wildness’ – every day in June. This could be anything from birdwatching or collecting outdoor items on a nature table to simply eating al fresco. 

This year, activities have been adapted to restrictions in place due to coronavirus, since connecting to nature is even more valuable for people in isolation. 

Free online packs – some specially tailored – are available for anyone to download. 

Resources include a wallchart to track and plan activities, a nature table template and a bingo game. People are also encouraged to invent their own ‘wild acts’, whether to feel closer to wildlife or to help protect it. 

Watching a bird feeding

Positive effects 

Last year, a specific 30 Days Wild activity pack was produced for care homes for the first time. This came after Your Health care homes reported that their residents felt calmer, happier and had fewer falls after enjoying nature as part of the challenge. 

The pack was based on the sort of activities that had worked well for the homes. The best ideas are simple, can be done at any time and help people to reminiscence or simply just talk to each other. 

‘It introduced opportunities for residents to engage with nature in interesting ways,’ says Louise Baker, Marketing Assistant at Your Health.

‘These included nature journals, wild artwork and picnics in the sun, as well as plant potting, butterfly gardening and feeding the birds.’ 

Whether they had dementia or not, the residents also enjoyed eating strawberries, creating miniature ‘fairy gardens’, dipping their toes into cool paddling pool water, bee counting and even water fights. 

One person living in a Your Health home, Gail, particularly appreciated the opportunity to create a daisy chain. 

‘I feel like I did when I was young, sat in the grass making them all those years ago,’ she said. 

Another resident, Baz, was equally engaged after spotting some fish in a lake. 

‘Wow, they look like trout – they’re just like when I fished here as a boy. That’s amazing to see!’ he said. 

Zoe Searston, manager of Langwith Lodge Residential Home in Nottinghamshire, noticed that many residents who had dementia became less agitated after spending time outdoors focused on wildlife, which helped reduce their risk of falling. 

‘Certain activities during 30 Days Wild calmed and engaged them,’ she says. ‘Mental wellbeing affects our residents’ physical health, and we have witnessed the positive effects of nature on both.’ 

Woman carrying branches

Adapting activities 

Although centred on June, 30 Days Wild can be enjoyed at any time. After taking part last year, staff and residents at Redmount Residential Home in Devon were inspired to continue with nature-themed activities. 

‘Residents love to spend time looking at items brought in by one of our volunteers,’ says Tara Williams, the home’s manager. 

‘She frequently brings in cuttings from her garden or the home’s garden, so the residents can talk about things and discuss their wild childhoods and the times they enjoyed outdoors as adults too.’ 

With the coronavirus pandemic restricting people’s movement, 30 Days Wild is focusing on things that can be done within current rules on social distancing and travel. 

‘This year’s pack includes activities that have been adapted so that they can be done closer to home, like keeping a nature journal, watching a wildlife webcam or feeding the birds,’ says Dom Higgins, Head of Health and Education at The Wildlife Trusts. 

‘Many care homes have gorgeous grounds and appreciated the ideas to help them make more of these spaces and the nature on their doorstep.’ 

Bee in a flower

Get wild 

Alzheimer’s Society has been working with The Wildlife Trusts to ensure that suggested activities are dementia friendly or can be adapted. We’ve also been sharing information about 30 Days Wild and the benefits of engaging with nature – download dementia-friendly guidance packed with exciting ideas.

‘30 Days Wild offers a great range of inclusive ideas, with many that are suitable for people affected by dementia,’ says Steve McFadyen, our Programme Partnerships Officer for Sport and Leisure. 

‘It’s really important that more people affected by dementia who are socially isolating at home or in care homes know that ideas and activities like this are available to help add some joy to their days. 

‘With the coronavirus pandemic, taking part in meaningful, engaging and fun activities is more important than ever before. We hope people across the country, whether in a flat, caravan, house or care home, can get wild with nature!’ 

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Dementia together magazine: June/July 20

Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now
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