Digging into the experiences of therapeutic gardening for people with dementia: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Dementia (London). 2021 Jan;20(1):130-147. doi: 10.1177/1471301219869121. Epub 2019 Aug 19.


Gardening programmes aim to promote improved engagement and quality of life in persons with dementia. Although a substantial literature has amassed documenting the overall positive outcomes associated with therapeutic gardening and horticulture for persons with dementia, little is known about the specific aspects of the gardening process that engender these benefits, and how and why they are important. The purpose of this research was to explore, using interpretative phenomenological analysis, the experiences of therapeutic gardening for persons with dementia, and their perspectives on the senses and emotions elicited in the gardening process that promote well-being. The themes that emerged in our analysis are to varying degrees substantiated in the literature: the usefulness of activating the senses, particularly those of touch and smell; the significance of being occupied in meaningful, productive work; the importance of cultivating a sense of curiosity, wonder, and learning; the positive gains derived from socialization in a group context; the peace and hope derived from being 'in the moment'; and the positive mental and physical well-being derived from participating in the outdoor garden. Our findings support the integration of therapeutic gardening as a valuable practice for people with dementia.

Keywords: dementia; gardening; horticulture; interpretative phenomenological analysis; interventions for dementia.

MeSH terms

  • Dementia*
  • Emotions
  • Gardening*
  • Gardens
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life