Tree-mendous woodland initiative

The Woodland Trust and Barchester Healthcare are providing residents living with dementia, and their families, a chance to connect with nature

The UK's leading woodland conservation charity, the Woodland Trust, and Barchester Healthcare, a major quality care provider, have begun an initiative this month that will see organised woodland walks available throughout the UK for individuals living with dementia.

More than 60 Barchester representatives from care homes across the UK, will be trained by the Woodland Trust’s VisitWoods partner, Dementia Adventure, an award winning social enterprise, to support them to guide residents and their families in their local woods.  The project will also provide resources such as nature swatches to identify different species of trees, flowers and insects.  Discussion with residents about the woodland will support reminiscence work Barchester does with residents with dementia, and research will be gathered along the way to help to quantify what many people instinctively feel about the health benefits of connecting with nature.

Gayle Wharton, VisitWoods Project Manager, said: “Woodland visits enable many visitors with dementia to immerse themselves in nature and often their dementia becomes less of a focus when in this environment. The research conducted with several groups so far shows a clear improvement in participants’ physical, mental and social wellbeing.”

Jim Marr, Director of Care and Quality at Barchester Healthcare, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Woodland Trust as we know the woodland offers health benefits to people of all ages and we are keen to encourage more for older people and those with dementia not to miss out.  Several of our activities co-ordinators and carers will receive training to support residents with dementia to get the most out of exploring their local woodland. We believe many of these individuals will really respond to the sensory woodland experience and enjoy outings in our wonderful green spaces."

With almost half of Barchester’s 200 UK homes providing person-centred dementia services, within their unique Memory Lane Communities, the partnership is a perfect way to enable groups of people experiencing dementia to visit their local woods. The Trust’s VisitWoods team has worked in partnership with Dementia Adventure CIC, to carry out several pilot projects over the last two years, taking residents from care homes on woodland visits. The VisitWoods website also provides information on over 11,000 publicly accessible woods across the country, to make finding and visiting a nearby wood easy for all ages and abilities. A regional assortment of Barchester care homes with Memory Lane Dementia Communities has been mapped alongside local woods featured on the VisitWoods website, enabling each care home to discover which woods local to them are the most suitable to host an outing for residents. 

Barchester already works with the Woodland Trust on a native tree-planting initiative, creating Barchester Forests on Barchester care home sites with extensive grounds for residents to enjoy, while also reducing the company’s carbon footprint. With more than 4,000 trees planted with the help of local care home communities to date, Barchester has more scheduled this winter when the conditions are right for planting.

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