Ground-breaking dementia study

Published 6:05am 14 March 2023

Ground-breaking dementia study
Words by Moreton Daily

We know gardening can help people flourish, and now a study will explore how it can benefit those with dementia.

A joint study by The University of Queensland (UQ) and The University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) is investigating how gardening with a purpose can improve the quality of life of people with dementia.

UQ Honorary Fellow and UniSC psychology lecturer Dr Kris Tulloch says it is already known spending time outdoors is beneficial for people living with dementia, but this study will go a step further.

“Gardening is a really useful activity for people with dementia as they can pick it back up more easily than a craft project where they may have trouble remembering what they were up to,” Dr Tulloch explains.

|“In this research, we have added an extra element – gardening with a meaningful cause. We want to investigate how a sense of purpose impacts people living with dementia and their carers.|

“Through our partnership with The Mini Farm Project in Samford, people will see exactly how their efforts help people in need which we hope will add another layer to their gardening experience.”

The Mini Farm Project is a charity working to resolve food insecurity by creating a network of charity farms to grow food for people in need.

The project donates about 50kg of produce a week to Meals on Wheels at Pine Rivers.

Participants in the study will directly contribute by planting, watering and weeding in small groups under the supervision of experts twice a week for up to seven weeks.

They’ll also complete surveys and interviews about their experience.

Ground-breaking dementia study
Researcher Dr Kris Tulloch and volunteers Peter Saggers, Harley Thompson and Jenny Saggers in the Samford Mini Farm Project vegetable garden.

Building a community

The Mini Farm Project Founder and Chief Executive Officer Nick Steiner says the research project aligns with his goal to build a community.

“Having this opportunity to work with Dr Tulloch allows us to be more than just a farm, we become integrated into the community and build relationships,” Nick says.

“One in six adults in Australia hasn’t had enough to eat in the past year, and even more shockingly, 1.2 million children have gone hungry.

“This project helps us spread our message and work with others to grow food for those in need.”

Dr Tulloch says stigma around dementia can affect a person’s quality of life once diagnosed.

“This is why projects like this are crucial,” she says.

“There are a lot of misperceptions around the experiences of people who have dementia and this can lead them to be excluded from activities and social connection.

|"It’s so important they are given opportunities to create positive interactions and maintain a sense of purpose.”|

The study, funded by the Australian Association of Gerontology, is accepting applications from people with dementia and their caregivers to take part in the project.

The project may be suitable for people who do not need to use a wheelchair or walker to move around.

For more information on how to get involved, email Dr Tulloch at [email protected] or text 0434 706 063.

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