Catching up with the Nature Memories Café

Catching up with the Nature Memories Café

By Hati Whiteley>

You may remember reading about the Nature Memories Café a couple of months back in the Alpkit Foundation News.

Back in January 2017, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust began a 10-week trial of the session aimed at providing a safe, relaxing, and welcoming environment for those living with dementia and their loved ones. Activities included guided walks, wildlife watching, and nature crafts in the setting of the Warburg Nature Reserve; with the support of the Alpkit Foundation, all sessions were free to attend. Weekly attendance was high, at 15 - 25 participants per week, and the trial was so successful that the Wildlife Trust have secured funding for the cafe for a further two years.

I really enjoy it glad to find something like this

Over the course of the trial, the weekly session has become a valuable opportunities for dementia sufferers and their loved ones to spend time together and meet others who understand their circumstances in what can be a very isolating time, as Community Wildlife Officer Becky O'Melia explains:

Both those living with dementia and their carers have benefitted from the [funding awarded]; it has enabled us to offer a relaxing environment where individuals can interact with nature and with each other. Participants have fed back that the session has become a lifeline for them, and that they look forward to coming every Monday to share their experiences with others who truly understand

We've tried so many other sessions and none of them have worked, during this session his behaviour is totally different - he's happier to sit for a long time. We'll definitely be back next week

The friends and loved ones of some participants have even remarked upon a change in his behaviour during and after the sessions:

For one of the participants who’s living with dementia it has an impact on his condition, he’s in the early stages of vascular dementia which has an impact on his physical abilities as well as mental. He often finds his condition worsens over the weekend, but on Monday mornings he has a place to go to and, as a result, he finds it much easier to motivate himself and get to the sessions.

The bird feeder we made is in garden get so many different birds on it now>

Finally, the session has created a support network for the carers and loved ones of those living with dementia, many of whom felt very isolated before the group was formed. The natural surroundings of the café are therapeutic for participants, and allow them to escape from daily life for a few hours to enjoy spending time with their loved ones, and for these carers, the Nature Memories Café is a forum in which they can talk to others who understand their circumstances, seek help, and share advice:

We're all in the same boat here… You can have lots of friends and family but unless you're living with it 24/7 no one can really understand

The project is part of a wider initiative to make the Nature Discovery Centre more dementia friendly and to raise awareness if dementia in the community; visit the centre's Facebook page to find out more.

The Alpkit Foundationsupports projects that enable people to overcome the obstacles preventing them from Going Nice Places and Doing Good Things.

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