Exploring nature: People with dementia try out nature packs

A group of people with dementia visit a West Sussex nature reserve to review specially designed products.

It was a consumer panel with a difference in November as we joined a group of people with dementia and their carers on a nature walk.

Based in Horsham in West Sussex, the Rusty Brains are part of our Focus on Dementia network – groups of people living with dementia who influence our and others’ work. 

Pulborough Brooks was a particularly appropriate venue, having previously held dementia awareness days.

To test out some nature packs from Active Minds, available in the Society’s online shop, the group went walking through Pulborough Brooks. The RSPB nature reserve offers views of the South Downs alongside a variety of wildlife. 

Pulborough Brooks was a particularly appropriate venue, having previously held dementia awareness days where staff and volunteers took part in Dementia Friends information sessions and met with Alzheimer’s Society staff. It is also planning to make the reserve more dementia friendly, with the input of people affected by the condition. 

People with dementia trying out nature packs

Looking out for the animals, birds and plants in a Nature Explorer book

Nature Walker and Nature Explorer 

The group first tried the Nature Walker and Nature Explorer packs, designed to bring the seasons to life and provide people with a goal while they are out walking. 

The Nature Explorer series of books, covering spring, summer, autumn and winter, include seasonal photographs to accompany a walk and spark discussion. 

‘It’s lovely the way the book has been set out – very easy to use,’ said Jan.

The Nature Walkers are sets of reference cards that can be fanned out, containing a range of seasonal textures to search for – turning a walk into an adventure of discovery. You can place objects through a looking hole to compare them with those pictured. 

Almost straight away, Beryl found some berries growing and placed them through the hole. ‘Beryl with the berries!’ someone joked. 

Jan found both the Winter Walker and Winter Explorer very interesting. She thought the discussion points at the back of the Winter Explorer were a good way of starting a conversation. It was also something you could do indoors or after you’ve come back from a walk. 

‘It’s lovely the way the book has been set out – very easy to use,’ she said. 

Norman felt the Winter Explorer would be too basic for some people, but acknowledged that it would be useful to many. 

‘I can recognise leaves without the book, though I didn’t know one or two of them,’ said Ian.

Ian liked the Autumn Explorer book, which he was using to identify different types of leaves during the walk. 

‘I can recognise leaves without the book, though I didn’t know one or two of them,’ he said. ‘Maybe in a couple of years’ time I might need it more.’ 

Ian also tried out the Nature Walker for autumn, which he thought would be very good at the right time of year, possibly more for children than some adults. 

The Spring Explorer was better than Malcolm was expecting. 

‘I was initially concerned about the white background, as I’d expected it to show the animals in their natural habitat, but it actually makes it good for people with dementia,’ he said. 

‘It’s excellent, especially for someone like me when I can’t hear,’ said Jenny.

Jenny, who lip reads as a result of hearing loss, was full of praise for the Spring Explorer book. 

‘I think this is very good,’ she said. ‘You start with a vegetable, then animal. I would look at the veg and name them. It’s excellent, especially for someone like me when I can’t hear.’ 

Ian added that it would be lovely to come again in spring and use the Spring Explorer. 

Jenny also looked at the Nature Walker for spring, noting that even if a person couldn’t read the flower names on the back page, someone else might be able to help them. 

The Explorer books and Walkers usually come as a pair for each season, priced at £12.49 without VAT. Norman felt this was a bit expensive and said it would be better if the books could be purchased separately. As a result of this, our online shop is making them available to buy individually.

A person with dementia trying out nature packs

Using Nature Walker reference cards to help identify plants

Bird Book and Bird Feeder 

The Bird Book contains 10 illustrations for birdwatching in the garden or while out on a walk. It could encourage conversation or help people relax as they watch the birds.

Alan, Norman and Beryl all liked the book. ‘It’s good – it has a short bit of reading on each bird,’ said Alan, who was reminded of the sparrows he sees in his garden at home. He also reminisced about his time living in south London, where the bird was so common that they called the local newspaper the Southwark Sparrow.

A Bird Feeder can also be purchased along with the book, as part of a Bird Watcher Bundle. Although the group didn’t build the feeder on the day, Norman and Beryl agreed to take it home and try it out.

‘It’s better than the one we’ve got, where all the birdseed falls out!’ said Norman.

They, along with Jan, liked the look of the feeder and, having taken the pieces out of the box, felt that it appeared simple to set up and use.

‘It’s better than the one we’ve got, where all the birdseed falls out!’ said Norman.

Daily living aids

If you have dementia or are supporting someone who does, our online shop includes a range of great products to make everyday life a bit easier.

Browse our shop

Of these products, even those that would usually have VAT on them are exempt if bought for a person with dementia or other condition.

If so, then each Nature Walker is £9.58 and each Nature Explorer is £3.49. The combined Nature Explorer and Nature Walker packs are £12.49.

The Bird Feeder is £10.83, the Bird Book is £6.99 and the Bird Watcher Bundle is £16.66.

As well as helping our online shop know what’s most useful to stock, the group’s feedback will also be shared with suppliers. 

Dementia together magazine: Feb/Mar 19

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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