dementia, communities & environments

Our Creative Spaces in the Community project is using the outdoors and nature-focused activities to build social networks, foster independence and enhance the physical and mental health of older people living with dementia in rural communities in Cornwall.

We'll be using this section as a place to generally share our thoughts on dementia and those it affects, including relevant projects, events, activities etc. If we've read it, written it, seen it or heard it and we think it should be 'out there' then here's where we'll share it.

Nature and Cognitive Stimulation

Today is  session number 12 of our 14 week Cognitive Stimulation and Nature Therapy trial.

We're working with Memory Matters South West, exploring if the addition of nature-based activities and increase access to outdoor environments enhances CST sessions.

CST is a proven therapy for people with mild to moderate dementia.  It follows an established set of themes for a period of 14 weeks and research has shown that it has a beneficial effect on people's cognitive abilities.   So we thought "what would happen if you add our nature-based approaches to a CST course?  Would there be any additional benefits?  Would there be no impact at all?"

We joined forces with Memory Matters South West who run CST sessions, activity clubs,  provide one to one support through their activity workers and offer training in dementia awareness.  So far we've planted seeds,  played outdoor games, created 'sound cards', matched plants with landscapes and orienteered ourselves around an outside environment using objects as clues, pictorial images and maps.

Today's session is about numbers so our nature element is based around locating Fibonacci numbers in plants outdoors.  We'll be searching for spirals - snail shells, curled fern leaves etc - and flower petals numbered 3,5 8 and possibly 13.  The weather's dry so it's a good morning for a nature treasure hunt outdoors!

The course finishes in a couple of weeks and myself and Laura from MMSW will be presenting our activities and findings at this year's UK Dementia Congress in November.  If you're going to be there, come along and say "Hi!" - we love to hear if you've used any of the activities from our website or been inspired by any of the methods/activities we've used in Creative Spaces.

I'll leave you with some Fibonacci in nature pics:

Project Manager

Psychosocial approaches in dementia care

The Cornwall Creative Dementia Alliance (CCDA) began a year ago as a group of organisations and individuals who all provide non-clinical support to people living with dementia in Cornwall.   Our aim is to work together to improve and raise awareness of psychosocial services for people living with dementia in Cornwall.  

Our first conference on the benefits of using psychosocial approaches in dementia care was held last month at the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre in Truro.

Over 80 delegates heard presentations from health professionals, Third Sector organisations and people living with dementia; had the chance to be inspired and hold creative conversations in the Market Place area and got involved in lunchtime activities.

The number of delegates and the positive feedback from them shows that there is a thirst for more knowledge about where to signpost patients once diagnosed as well as a need for collaborations between voluntary organisations and health professional to enhance the quality of life for those living with the disease in their communities.  

We're all keen in the Alliance to organise something similar next year so keep an eye out for news later in the year.

To find out more about the CCDA and link through to the presentations click HERE 

TOP LEFT: delegates enjoy an lunchtime session of dance and movement 
TOP MIDDLE: Dr. Nick Cartmell, Keynote speaker
TOP RIGHT: the Market Place
 BOTTOM LEFT: Dr. Jennifer Bute, guest speaker
BOTTOM MIDDLE: networking in the Market Place
BOTTOM RIGHT: Wendy Brewin, speaker

Wendy Brewin
Project Manager

From little acorns..........

There has been a lot happening in the project since my last update and I apologise for the lack of entries here.  Time has flown by and much of it has been spent focusing on establishing working relationships with other dementia-related organisations (more on that soon) and starting some dementia-friendly activities to support people in their own communities. 

So let me introduce you to the Clays walking group; here they are.......

.......enjoying various walks, tea stops and each other's company

It all began with Stephen and his wife Teresa who came along to one of our coffee mornings (a social activity we used to raise awareness of the project in the china clay area around St. Austell).  His frustration with his diagnosis was obvious.  Having been a farm worker all his life he suddenly found himself with no purpose and no bike license. His social life and mode of transport had gone but his determination to do as much as possible whilst he still could was very present.  So we organised a walk, just a short one and local to the area and then we followed that with another one and another and slowly others contacted us and joined in.

There are now 10 regulars in the group, including partners and other community members.  They laugh together, accommodate each others walking paces, share home-made 'goodies' and are disappointed if they have to miss a walk.  Stephen has even presented at a recent conference - his first time ever! (again, more on that soon).

You know the old saying "from little acorns big oaks grow"? combine that with a saying by JF Kennedy: "We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch" and I believe that's a good foundation for building sustainability into our project. We take our time to plant the 'acorns'; whether that's establishing working relationships, developing new activities or getting to know our beneficiaries. It's about appreciating and taking time to do all those things so that we create a solid foundation for sustainable outcomes.  We learn more about our beneficiaries and we develop activities that provide the right support and creativity for them.  

The Clays walking group provides us with wonderful images and anecdotes that we can use to encourage other communities and organisations to work with us.  Soon we'll be starting activities in Bodmin and Liskeard and later in the year - Wadebridge.  

There are exciting times ahead, if our 'acorns' are anything to go by!

p.s. don't go too far, there'll be more coming up shortly about our working partnerships and a 'first' for a conference in Cornwall.

Creative Spaces Project Manager

A breath of fresh air

I had such a brilliant afternoon last Thursday; out on a walk with a family from the St. Dennis area. Organised as part of the project, we spent an hour wandering through the landscape around the village.  If you've only ever seen images of the china clay country around St. Austell you'd be forgiven for thinking the landscape we walked through was stark, full of grey clay tips and little vegetation.  Far from it!  We had amazing views from above the village, across valleys and fields, out towards the sea; wandered through small country lanes with hedgerows full of grasses and wildflowers and dappled in sunlight and strolled across lush green fields.

The family were initially a little unsure as to what to expect; what would the walk entail? where would we go? who was this strange chatty woman that was leading the group?!  But once I had introduced the children to “Spot Bob”, a game which kept them entertained looking for the tiny pink petals of the Herb Robert flower in the hedgerows and banks, then everyone relaxed into the walk. Occasionally you'd hear "There's Bob!" and "Here's another Bob!".  There were other things to discover on the walk too; stony, dry stream beds, animal water troughs and ripe blackberries also stimulated interest and conversation.

An hour and a half later a group of smiling happy adults and children were enjoying a well earned drink and a piece of cake.

Dany Brookes, Dementia Support Worker for Alzheimer’s Society in Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly was one of the walkers; she described the day:

It was a lovely opportunity to get out and explore the local community with others.  Chatting about what we saw en route prompted my own childhood memories of similar walks with my grandmother and resurfaced previously dormant snippets of knowledge to share with the rest of the group.  We managed the walk easily considering our varied walking abilities and ages and hope other people will join future walks.  Dementia can impact on a person’s ability to recall memories and knowledge however our natural environment stimulates our senses and can provide an array of memory and conversational prompts. ”

We're looking forward to organising our next walk in the area now; perhaps in the autumn when the scenery will change again.  If you have dementia, or are affected by it and live in the china clay area around St. Austell (or in St. Austell itself) then please do come along and join us for an hour's stroll.

Creative Spaces Project Manager

Family forages

I think we've all been a little caught off-guard by the change in the weather recently (hopefully summer will return soon!), especially the drop in temperature.  The disappointment of having to open up the jumper drawer or take the coat down off the hook has turned my mind, albeit briefly, to autumn and the shortening days and the need to be thinking about a change of activities in Creative Spaces.

Just because we're less likely to spend time outside on windy, cold, wet days doesn't mean that we should deny ourselves that all-important connection with nature.  There are still many low-cost, fun activities that we can do to enhance someone's (and our own) day.  Some may require a little forward-thinking and planning but not to any great degree.

For example, I've already been pressing colourful flowers and petals to be used in our activities such as Nature Palettes and Memory Postcards.  But there are lots of garden material that I'll be collecting now in preparation for autumnal activities:
  • Seed heads, flower petals and leaves can be collected and pressed between sheets of blotting paper weighed down by heavy books. Some seed heads look particularly lovely if hung and dried and then sprayed for use in winter activities such as woven hazel centre-pieces for the Christmas table. 
  • Fruit such as blackberries and raspberries and apples can be collected and frozen or dried ready for culinary use (not to mention the fun part of picking berries.....'one in the bag, one for me'!) or in making bird food garlands and mobiles
  • Herbs can be picked and hung in bunches to dry then chopped and kept in jars to be used later in sensory activities such as making hanging decorations or pot pourri bags

Top: nuts, fruits & spices are great for festive decorations
Middle: leaves, seeds and dried fruit ready to go
Bottom:  pressing flowers is very therapeutic

The point is, all this gathering in the garden, or on regular walks, encourages conversation. What plants or landscapes will jog memories? Is it a favourite walk and why, or perhaps a new walk with news things to discover?  Will the walk be repeated?  What shall we do with the items gathered? a family activity perhaps?

Gathering materials whilst out and about is an activity in itself; a tool to create moments of enjoyment, social interaction and a sense of purpose which then creates an opportunity for even more of those moments through the activity for which the items were collected.

So get yourself and your loved one out and about this weekend; start collecting things for pressing, freezing or drying and enjoy the moments that you share together.

Creative Spaces Project Manager

Dementia roadshow in Cornwall

It's good to be able to help other organisations by promoting their events so this is just a quick post to let you know that the Alzheimer's Society in Cornwall is doing a road show this month. 

They will be at the following places

·         Perranporth Car Park on the Promenade, Beach Road, TR6 0JL.
      Saturday 16th August from 10am-4pm

  • Newquay Car Park, Fore Street TR7 1LP
Monday 18th August from 10am-4pm

  • Penzance Harbour Car Park, TR18 2GB.
            Tuesday 19th August from 10am-4pm

Pop along if you'd like general information and advice on dementia, or perhaps are wondering where to get help  and local support.  There's no need to book and it's all free.

For further information, please contact Teresa Parsons or Shirley Mewton on 01872 277963 or email

Creative Spaces Project Manager

The Fear of Dementia

I recently read an article on the website, headlined Dementia 'more feared than cancer' by older patients.  

The article was about a recent poll in which 100 patients over 50 were asked which they feared the most: dementia, cancer, heart disease or diabetes.  The results suggested that two thirds of them were more frightened of dementia.

Could this be something to do with the fact that a cure still seems to be a long way off and we lack the 'we can beat this' attitude that is now more common with a cancer diagnosis?  Or perhaps because the media tends to focus on the negative aspects of dementia, which makes for more sensational headlines, or maybe that many people in society still don't know much about this disease and therefore fear what they do not know? Perhaps it's a little bit of everything.

Whilst  research into a cure continues and early diagnosis is actively promoted, we still have a responsibility to make life as great as possible for people currently living with dementia.  I believe that it's only by creating social opportunities for people with dementia, with their neighbours, young people, shop staff - basically anybody else living and working in their community - that we help to break down social and emotional barriers.  The more people communicate with each other, the more they learn and understand each other and the better and stronger their connections are.  Fear is replaced with acceptance and ignorance with knowledge.

So let's not forget the importance of supporting people affected by dementia using social and creative approaches.  It is in these situations that people are able to communicate with each other through shared experiences and where they feel valued and accepted by others and where others are able to gain greater insight into the impact of dementia on those it affects.

A community trip to Eden Project; participants created
Nature Palettes, tasted food in the Mediterranean Biome
& got to know each other a little better

Creative Spaces Project Manager