Dementia is highly prevalent among the worldwide elderly population. Only a small number of the currently marketed drugs are effective in controlling its symptoms, and none has any effect on its progression. Further, as the condition advances, even these pharmaceuticals lose their efficiency, and new research into interventions that might improve the life quality of patients at the end stage of dementia and their families is increasingly rare. In our previous studies, we explored the benefits of exposure to nature, in the form of a Japanese garden, for persons with advanced dementia. In the current work, we extended our observations to two new locations and a new set of subjects with a different ethnic composition with the goal of identifying interventions that might improve their quality of life. We found that, even in these new settings, garden observation not only relieved physiological stress, it improved qualitative measures such as verbalization and memory retrieval. We present data that viewing the garden is a holistic experience rather a solely visual stimulus. Our new data further support the conclusion that garden observation is worth including in the care planning schedule of advanced dementia patients. Its low cost and easy availability make it an economical adjunct to current pharmacological methods that has the potential to improve the quality of life of people with dementia.
Keywords: Dementia; Japanese garden; heart rate; memory retrieval; stress relief.