A Sensory Garden Project (Community story)

Community article

By Staff at John Bryant House ©Dementia Care International

Staff at John Bryant House in Marangaroo, Perth created a Sensory Garden to encourage and tempt residents outdoors for both their enjoyment and to enhance their sensory stimulation.

The project included a weekly Multigenerational Playgroup, an aviary and a Pet Therapy program including chickens, which wander freely around two of the three outdoor areas.

The project is designed around the concept of Dr. Bill Thomas of ‘The Eden Alternative’ , where by replacing an ‘institutional’ approach with an environment more like a ‘Human Habitat’, incorporating pets, plants and children into the daily lives of the residents, feelings of ill-being can be reduced.

Input and suggestions for the garden were gathered from residents, family members and staff. Then a timely fieldwork assignment by Catherine and Robyn, two Curtin University Occupational Therapy students, saw the project come to life as they embraced the challenge of integrating ideas and sourcing items for the garden within a limited budget (A$200). Their thrifty shopping bought a bird bath, patio plants, hanging baskets with colourful plants, party lights for the gazebo, wind chimes, gnomes, statues, wall plaques and garden tools.

Interested residents were actively involved in designing the new area, settling in the ‘gnome family’, re-potting plants and other gardening activities. Many other residents brought their afternoon tea outside and chatted while watching those who were gardening.

The new garden additions not only provide interesting sensory stimulation, but also opportunities for discussion and reminiscence.

A visit by Jane Verity provided an exciting opportunity to discuss the project and gain valuable feedback on the potential benefits of providing ‘strong sensory experiences, colour, humour and the unusual or unexpected’.