Dementia Wellbeing Pilot Project

“If my son could see me now, he wouldn’t believe it”

People with dementia and their carers had the opportunity to try out a range of environmental art, woodcraft and outdoor cooking in the Forest of Avon Trust’s recent Woodland Wellbeing project.

The pilot project, in Conham River Park, arose from a partnership between Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service and the Forest of Avon Trust and ran for 12 weeks from late summer into the autumn, attracting a total of 17 participants.  Underpinned by the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (be active, connect, take notice, keep learning and give back), activities across the sessions included walks along the river and through the woods, environmental arts and crafts, making fires and cooking, chatting over a cup of tea or coffee and learning about wildlife.

Participants were accompanied by a close family member or a support worker and everyone could join in the activities as much or as little as they wanted. People got involved in sawing and drilling wood to make rustic items such as twig pencils, mallets and candle holders; making mosaics and bunting from found leaves and petals; or using natural inks with quills they’d made from feathers to write poems based on what they could see, hear and smell in the woodland environment. For others, it was enough to sit and watch.

Each week a member of the group would light the fire to boil water for hot drinks, and sitting around in a circle trying to guess which way the wind would blow the smoke became a regular focus of the group.  We did some foraging while on our walks, collecting sweet chestnuts to roast and blackberries which made a tasty accompaniment to home-made pancakes, while the final session featured more traditional outdoor snacks such as hot dogs and toasted marshmallows.

“There’s a wonder to it”

Observations and initial feedback from participants show that there is something very calming and yet stimulating about being out in nature. Many people said they found the sessions enjoyable and relaxing; several people enjoyed looking out for colours and shapes, listening to the birds and pointing out how things changed from week to week, such as the leaves as we moved into autumn, the reflections on the river and spider webs covered in dew.

“I’m going to sleep well tonight!”

Participants expressed pride at their achievements, for example for walking further than they had done for a long time, and were pleased to have something to take home to show family members. Most people expressed pleasure at being able to spend time out in nature, to have time together with family or to meet new people.

Feedback at the end of the 12 weeks also indicates that many people are keen to continue with Woodland Wellbeing sessions and we are discussions about how best to do this.

Dementia Wellbeing is one of a suite of successful wellbeing projects run by the Forest of Avon Trust over the last 7 years. We are deeply committed to this work and the benefits it brings to people with learning disabilities, those with mental health needs and people with dementia.

Please do contact jonclark@forestofavontrust.org if you would like to sponsor, or otherwise support out work.

Posted in: Our Projects, Woodland Wellbeing and tagged .

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