Did you know that in Italy, Alzheimer gardens are being used as a non-pharmacological therapeutic tool for people with dementia? One notable example is the Alzheimer garden created by ASP Bologna, which is open to guests of the Giovanni XXIII Service Centre. This special green space is designed with the usability of people with dementia in mind and includes a cognitive stimulation pathway known as ‘Memory Pathways’. Alzheimer gardens provide a unique environment where sensory perception and physical rehabilitation can be stimulated. These gardens are not just about aesthetics; they are therapeutic spaces that help reduce temporal and spatial disorientation, reactivate long-term memory, and curb afinalistic wandering. The gardens also aim to compensate for cognitive and functional deficits caused by dementia, improve mood and self-esteem, and promote socialisation.

The therapeutic aims of Alzheimer gardens include stimulating sensory perception and physical rehabilitation, reducing disorientation and enhancing memory recall, lowering stress and anxiety levels, reducing the use of drugs for apathy and depression, promoting autonomy, and improving the overall psychophysical state. Alzheimer gardens offer multi-sensory stimulation, spatio-temporal orientation, and management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). They provide a safe and stimulating environment for frail older people and help increase their knowledge about nature. These gardens feature defined paths, landmarks, and thematic vegetation areas to stimulate memory skills and orientation. Rest areas are designed to encourage social interaction and relaxation, and the entire garden is safely enclosed to allow free and safe exploration.

Continuous maintenance is required, but involving healthy elderly volunteers can help manage this. The Alzheimer garden at ASP Bologna has been successful since its inauguration in 2017, providing a structured pathway for non-pharmacological interventions and promoting social inclusion.