This paper is a systematic review of quantitative studies conducted on the benefits of visiting gardens and gardening therapy for people with dementia (PWD) in an effort to assess the effectiveness of such treatments and obtain information on the most appropriate garden design for this population. This review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA) guidelines. Four databases were searched (PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, Scopus), with no time limits. Out of a total of 480 articles considered, 16 studies were selected for review. In all but two of the studies examined, gardening therapy and the use of therapeutic gardens induced psychophysiological improvements in PWD. The areas showing the greatest effects were Engagement, Agitation, Depression/Mood, Stress, and Medication. It also emerged that interest in this sphere has been growing in the last decade, but there is still a shortage of empirical evidence of the beneficial effects of therapeutic gardens in relation to the type and severity of dementia, and of garden design guidelines. Despite the limited number of studies investigated, the review confirmed the benefits of gardening and therapeutic gardens in PWD. There is nonetheless a need to conduct more quantitative research to support currently-available evidence and generate more information, focusing on garden design criteria, in-garden activities, the type and severity of dementia examined, and effects on caregivers as well as on PWD.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; dementia; horticultural therapy; restorative environments; systematic review; therapeutic garden.