With dementia on the rise among ageing populations in the UK and the US, researchers are looking at better and better ways of treating it.
Over one in 10 adults in the US over the age of 65 have dementia. Although most patients have Alzheimer's there are other less common types including Frontotemporal dementia which Hollywood star Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with.
Physical health has shown to be just as important as mental health when it comes to slowing the effects of dementia. And gardening is an everyday activity that can do both.
Last year a group of researchers published a study showing the health benefits of 'Horticulture-Based Activities' for people living with dementia. The scientists found that gardening "led to positive impacts on engagement, social interactions, and mental and physical well-being" for people with dementia.
They also note that "engagement in enjoyable activities is fundamental to maintaining quality of life and autonomy."
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According to their published paper: "Findings revealed that involvement in horticulture-based activities led to positive impacts on engagement, social interactions, and mental and physical well-being in PLWD (people living with dementia). No conclusive evidence was found from included studies for improvement in cognitive function."
Morris Hankinson, Director of Hopes Grove Nurseries, revealed five plants that work well in an Alzheimer’s-friendly garden
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - The evergreen foliage has a familiar, calming scent and the lilac- mauve flower spikes produced in midsummer only heighten the appeal.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - Like the Lavender, this is a great evergreen shrub for scent, the bright blue flowers appear en-masse in spring as a bonus.
Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides Hameln) - A great addition, the fluffy seed heads are very tactile and the slightest breeze makes the plants rustle and sway gently.
Lemon Scented Geranium (Pelargonium crispum) - A favourite from my childhood. Gently brush the leaves for an intense burst of lemon scent, the flower heads are attractive too.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) - Cannot fail to cheer with their huge flower heads, such impressive results come so readily from a packet of seeds, and the birds will be very happy with the food source that the seed heads provide.
Another lifestyle activity that could help with dementia is using the internet. Regular internet users have approximately half the risk of dementiacompared to their same-age peers who don't go online as much.
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Researchers balanced a number of other factors, such as education, ethnicity and sex, which could affect cognitive decline and still noticed the benefit of using the internet.
Participants in the study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, using the internet between 6 minutes and 2 hours per day had the lowest risk of dementia.
Although a number of previous studies have highlighted the problems around overuse of the internet, particularly among children and adolescents, this new research is among a growing body of studies that show its positive aspects as well.