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Dementia: Understand Together Garden finds permanent home in Arklow

A garden specially designed to support the needs of people living with dementia was opened today (Friday) at the Arklow Duck Pond, Nature Walk & Leisure Area in County Wicklow.

The opening was performed by the Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris TD, who said: “Gardens like this offer an opportunity to reflect, reminisce and relax. I hope that everyone who visits this special garden will enjoy it.”

The garden, titled “Moments in Time”, was one of the key attractions at Bord Bia’s Bloom in Dublin’s Phoenix Park over the June Bank Holiday weekend. It was designed by Newtown Saunders Ltd of Baltinglass, along with TrinityHaus and Sonas apc.

It is an initiative of the Dementia: Understand Togethercampaign, led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio, which aims to create an Ireland that embraces and includes people with dementia, and which displays solidarity with them and their loved ones.

The campaign had invited applications from publicly-funded organisations and residential care centres nationwide to take ownership of the garden once its time at Bord Bia’s Bloom had come to an end.

Arklow Municipal District – with the support of the Lily of the Valley Day Centre, Arklow Tidy Towns, the Arklow Bay Hotel and the Arklow Town Team – was successful in its application to provide a new home for the garden.

Studies have shown that welcoming, accessible outdoor spaces support people with dementia and their carers to have positive interactions, maintain their independence, engage in meaningful occupation and experience enhanced health and well-being.

Performing the opening, Minister Harris said: "A diagnosis of dementia is not the end, though it does pose new challenges. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that people with dementia are recognised and valued and are offered as much support as possible to ensure that they live their lives as fully as possible.”

The Minister congratulated Arklow Municipal District for winning the right to be the permanent home of this beautiful, award-winning garden. “This is the result of a successful partnership with the Lily of the Valley Day Centre, Arklow Tidy Towns, the Arklow Bay Hotel, the Arklow Town Team and the local community. Thank you to all involved for your work on the bid," he stated.

Cllr Miriam Murphy, Cathaoirleach, Arklow Municipal District and Chair of ArklowTown Team,said she was delighted that her hometown had won the competition adding: “This beautiful garden will benefit many people with dementia and will encourage people to connect with the outdoors in an area that provides a diverse mix of amenities. Many families have been touched by dementia and I feel that this is a positive step in improving the social needs of people with dementia and their families.”

Mr Sean Quirke, Deputy Chief Executive, Wicklow County Council, stated: “This is a marvellous new facility for the people of Arklow and beyond. It complements the leisure experience already available in this area of Arklow town and will ensure that everyone in our community can participate in recreational activities to suit their needs.”

He complimented Clive Jones, Newtown Saunders Ltd, on the quality of workmanship achieved in the construction of the garden and also the staff of Arklow Municipal District and Arklow Town Team without whom this project would not have become a reality.

Prof Brian Lawlor, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair of the Dementia: Understand Togethercampaign, said the garden was not only about providing a therapeutic space for people with dementia, it was also about opening up conversation and facilitating a better understanding of dementia.

Right now, there are 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland – a number expected to more than double by 2036 – and so this is a matter that is impacting our families, our circles of friends, and our communities. This garden reflects one of the core messages of the Dementia: Understand Together campaign which is that there is life after a diagnosis of dementia and that people can still live well.

“Experiencing the outdoors is crucial for our health and well-being, in combining physical exercise with mental stimulation. This garden promotes engagement with the community for the person with dementia and offers a fantastic therapeutic amenity for them and their loved ones, where they can sit together and chat, and enjoy the garden’s sights, sounds and smells,” he stated.

Mr Laurence Collins, Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland Wicklow Support Group, believes that other parts of the country will look to Arklow as a model for dementia care saying: “We are delighted to have won the competition and the garden will cement the work already done by the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland. This will allow Arklow to serve as a model for dementia care, not only in Wicklow, but for the whole country.”

He added: “I wish to acknowledge the continued work of the volunteer group and the people of Arklow who contribute enormously to the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland. Without their support we would not be able to provide these valuable services. I also wish to acknowledge the working group who put together the application for this competition. Their efforts will assist many families for years to come by enhancing the quality of life for people with dementia and their loved ones.”

Mr Clive Jones, from Baltinglass, who is director of Newtown Saunders Limited and a member of the design team, said: “Having won a medal at Bloom 2018 we are delighted that the ‘Moments in Time’ dementia-friendly garden has been relocated to a public space in Arklow. Designed as a ‘parklet’ to be set within a larger public park, this location along Seaview Avenue is perfect for raising awareness about dementia and illustrating how dementia-friendly design can help people to experience the benefits of nature, outdoor activities, and the gentle social interaction that gardens and parks can provide.

“In addition, the garden now provides a new focal point within the area and a meaningful destination and resting point for people when they are out and about. In this way, it can become a calm and relaxing pocket of space for people to spend time together, sit, enjoy nature, and be reminded about the importance of family and community life for all of us, but especially for people living with dementia.”

The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is funded by the HSE and The Atlantic Philanthropies and began in 2015. The campaign website offers a comprehensive information resource on dementia, including a service-finder detailing county-by-county the dementia supports and services available. Support packs, including posters, leaflets and badges, can be ordered also. Visit www.understandtogether.ieor Freephone 1800 341 341.

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