It is great for everybody to get outdoors once in a while. But that is not so easy if you are living with dementia living either in community, or in a care home.
The Parks Trust in Milton Keynes and The Open University are working together to evaluate a new initiative - 5 Ways Cafe event including walking outings in the beautiful Manor Park in Great Linford, Milton Keynes for people with dementia, their families and carers.
This project is trying to understand what works to keep people living with dementia and their carers engaging with the walks and outdoor environments. For more information about the research study please visit www.keepmewalking.info website. We know that sustained benefits come from regular engagement with activities (see more in Five Pillars of Ageing Well) but this is challenging at many levels for people living with dementia and their families and carers. This is even more difficult in the tomes of COVID-9.
The Parks Trust is an independent charity that cares for over 6,000 acres of parkland and green space in Milton Keynes. This includes the river valleys, ancient woodlands, lakesides, parks and landscaped areas alongside the main roads that represent 25% of the city and they continue to take ownership of additional areas of green space as Milton Keynes expands. Their mission is: ‘… to create beautiful and inspirational parks, lakes and landscapes that will be loved by the people of Milton Keynes, forever.’
As part of The National Heritage Lottery Funded project to ‘Reveal, Revive and Restore’ Great Linford Manor Park, The Parks Trust are working to make the site more accessible. To help identify areas for improvement the Trust worked with Dementia Adventure, an organisation that helps those living with dementia to retain a sense of adventure in their lives. They are also working towards making all volunteers Dementia Friends. One outcome of the project so far has been the formation of the 5 Ways Café, which runs monthly, as a dementia friendly coffee morning and guided walk for local people. As the project progresses various dementia friendly initiatives are taking place, including most recently the launch of a Spotter Sheet which can be downloaded from The Trust’s website and is available here.
A research team based at The Open University, led by Dr Jitka Vseteckova, were invited to evaluate the impact of the walks on people living with dementia. The aim of the evaluation is to understand what the barriers and facilitators are to engagement with these walks and how can regular attendance be ideally facilitated. The researchers are interested in exploring and learning more about how people interact with the outdoors in this context as well as with other people.
It is widely recognized that it is healthy for everybody to get outdoors. Green spaces and nature can be restful, inspiring and invigorate the senses. We know from research that spending time outdoors improves physical and mental health. However, getting out may be challenging for people with dementia living in community or in a care home.
The Parks Trust in Milton Keynes and the OU are working together to evaluate a new initiative of Walking Programme set currently as 5 Ways cafes in the local Manor Parks (Great Linford, MK) for people living with dementia in Milton Keynes and their informal carers and families, which will be an exemplar of interest to a wide range of UK care homes and volunteer organisations.
We aim to measure the engagement and impact of the Walking Programme on care home residents and to understand what keeps people living with dementia and their informal carers engaging with the walks and enjoying, and benefiting from, the outdoor environments.We aim to measure the engagement and impact of the Walking Programme on care home residents and to understand what keeps people living with dementia and their informal carers engaging with the walks and enjoying, and benefiting from, the outdoor environments. It will take into account practical issues (e.g. staffing) as well as emotional engagement (how does it feel to be in the natural environment) to gain a full understanding of the factors that affect continuous engagement. It aims to measure the experience and outcomes for residents, improve practices not only for The Park’s Trust and local care home, but also for other service providers and commissioners of care home and voluntary sector services for residents with dementia. (more information www.keepmewalking.info )
We plan to interview family members, Walking Programme organisers and residents and at each walk, we plan to conduct observations and take notes on the engagement of the residents with the Walking Programme, and those who choose to cease the walks and /or not engage with the Walking Programme. This will give us a full picture of the uptake and continuous engagement with the Walking Programme for care home residents with dementia, with perspectives and experiences from everybody involved in the process. (more information www.keepmewalking.info )
Findings will enable us to provide a guidance for those organising the walks and care home staff, and those who commission and promote these. Research reports on theories underpinning adherence to/continuous engagement with exercise in older people, however none of these underpins adherence to/continuous engagement with Walking Programme for older care home resident living with dementia. Therefore, we also plan to produce a set of strategies to continuous engagement with Walking Programme for people living with dementia and their informal carers.
- Vseteckova J & King J (2020) COVID-19 Interview podcast for The Retirement Café: ‘Ageing Well Under Lockdown’ https://theretirementcafe.co.uk/077-dr-jitka/
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