Most of us experience life through our five senses: smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing. These senses help us to describe objects, places, people and feelings very effectively.
The SENSE-GARDEN environment will stimulate the five senses to give the person with dementia the opportunity to recreate and rediscover his life experience. This way we can trigger past memories and refresh them aiming to improve the communication with family, caregivers or medical personnel regardless of the phase of dementia they are in.
The SENSE-GARDENS built under this project are also a way to help caregivers to better do their job, and give a better care for the patients. In this situation is extremely important to know the stories behind patients and give them the best care they need. The adaptable SENSE-GARDEN knows its users and their past histories that are shared with caregivers are subject to strict privacy and a written consent is asked from the family or patient tutor.

A story

Every day, Julia, a nice woman in a moderate stage of dementia, likes to go for a short stroll in the SENSE-GARDEN. When Julia enters the space, it adapts to her preferences and starts playing music that she likes and recognizes, screens shown images from known places.

Julia can walk along the small path in the SENSE-GARDEN and experience smells from flowers and touch the leaves of plants and trees placed along the path. Initially, soothing sounds from birds are playing in the small speakers concealed in the garden; the screens show videos from the mountains surrounding her village, where she lived with her husband and children. This always calms her down. Next, some pictures from the local farm where she used to work are shown. Julia is now surrounded by images and sounds from her younger times.

Suddenly she is inside her favorite park, where she used to go for walks with her kids, with the beautiful gardens bandstand and the small lake with the fountain, the church in the back. She can hear the sound of the water and smell the scent of the pine trees. All the memories come back to her. She feels happy and wants to share this with Jonathan, her caregiver, standing next to her. This short visit to the SENSE-GARDEN really makes her day brighter.

Julia's favourite music starts playing in the garden. The music brings her back to the memories of her youth. She likes to talk about the moments she listened to that music and share the emotions associated to those times. Jonathan, the caregiver, is willing to listen to the stories she tells him. That helps him to better care for her, and engage with her in a subject that she enjoys talking about.

She got in such a good mood that she gladly says yes to the invitation to go for a cycle tour. Julia and Jonathan both sit on their bicycles, placed side by side in front of a large screen. A film of a road along Julia's village is shown. They cycle as the film unfolds. They make a short stop at the church because Julia always likes to take a moment when passing by, before they continue to her house. Finally, they get off the bikes and walk the short path to the exit; on the way, Julia smells the scents of flowers, touches the plants, and again feels immersed in a space that is calming and so familiar to her.

Jonathan smiles when remembering how she felt lonely and almost stopped talking after just a few weeks in the residence, after she was taken from her home, and that now she looks again happy, her memory seems better and she is so talkative. Since she started her daily visits to the SENSE-GARDEN the behavioural and psychological symptoms are rarer. She is now on a lower dosage of psychotropic medication.