Enjoying gardening, whether you have dementia or not

We ask people about how they keep well, whether they have dementia or not. This time, we hear about keeping plants and gardening.

Tracey Shorthouse, 52 with young-onset dementia 

I encourage all forms of wildlife to visit, especially this time of year when my cats don’t go out so much. This means that the birds and squirrels have more of a free rein on the food I give them. In the summer, I often have frogs as I have a pond.

I like colour so I have different plants and flowers in my garden to enhance that, as well as scent and texture like lamb’s ear, which has velvet leaves. 

I feel grounded in my garden on a spiritual level, as there is nothing better than walking barefooted in my garden. However, my garden is a great allrounder for my mental health in general.

It helped greatly when we were in lockdown, I don’t think I would have coped so well if I didn’t have my garden.

Tracey Shorthouse


Robert Mainwaring, 70 in Ware 

Working together with my wife as a team. Creating a pleasant and safe family space. 

I enjoy uncomplicated physical activity like digging, cutting, fence painting, heavy lifting. I started because it was a challenge when we bought the house, and the wife encouraged me.

I’m trying to find gadgets that reduce the amount of bending I do, as I find this difficult as I get older.

Clare Cooper in Neath Port Talbot 

For a time, my mum volunteered with me at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. I had been studying gardening and volunteering there.

One day, I visited my mum and realised she hadn’t been in her beloved garden all day because it was raining.

So she came to volunteer with me in the Great Glasshouse, where she could garden whatever the weather.

Clare Cooper

I think it bought my mum time – she was becoming very withdrawn and had lost confidence because her speech was poor.

She had a purposeful role in the garden. She was often thanked, but no one asked too many questions. 

I am now running a community garden project in the Swansea Valley. Most community garden projects like ours have dry spaces and welcome the contributions of a range of volunteers.

Pauline Riley, 77 in Manchester

I help to run a community garden in which we grow organic fruit, veg, herbs and flowers. I also work in my own garden. I potter about most days, sometimes alone and other times with others. 

Both give me great pleasure, being out in the open air and enjoying the fruits of my labour.

We also have a newly planted wildflower meadow and a native hedge to attract birds, bees, insects etc. We have our own beehives, which create a lot of interest.

Pauline Riley


Stay well 

Your age and genes affect your risk of developing dementia, but you can’t change them. 

Things you can change include keeping your mind and body active, enjoying healthier food, not smoking, drinking less alcohol, staying in touch with people, and dealing with any health problems.

If you already have dementia, the same things can help you to stay healthy and well. 

NHS Live Well has health and wellbeing advice for everyone.

Dementia together magazine

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now