The benefits of spending time in nature on brain health, resilience, and emotional wellness are well documented, and demand for programs supporting outdoor engagement for people living with dementia and their care partners is steadily growing. Individuals and organizations around the globe are creating projects that provide opportunities for outdoor exercise, social engagement, and connection with nature. Unfortunately, in New York City, there is a pervasive lack of awareness and stigmatization of dementia, resulting in the isolation and exclusion of many of our friends and neighbors from shared public parks and green spaces. Indoor programs for people living with dementia, such as the Museum of Modern Art’s “Meet Me at the Museum,” are celebrated for prioritizing accessibility and engagement, but comparable outdoor programs are significantly lacking.
Public parks belong to us all, and this pilot facilitates opportunities for our fellow citizens living with dementia and their care partners to experience first-hand the seasonal changes of plant and animal life in a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment. Nature Art Walks is a series of guided nature and artmaking excursions co-created by and for people living with dementia and their care partners. The “nothing about us, without us, is for us” philosophy directly informs this pilot’s methodology. People living with dementia and their care partners are experts in their own experience, and they will be equal partners in this pilot, sharing authorship of the project planning, implementation, and evaluation stages with project facilitators. Steps include:
1) Recruitment of 15 person cohort to plan, implement, and evaluate.
2) Training and education for the cohort on safe and successful implementation of outdoor programs for people living with dementia.
3) Planning walk content from a menu (locations, type of artmaking, themes).
4) Evaluating and adjusting based on feedback.
5) Curating a public exhibition of artwork created over the course of the year-long program.
1) Improved cognitive function and resilience, emotional wellness, interpersonal relationships, and cardiovascular health.
2) Strengthened connections, a newfound sense of purpose and accomplishment, and empowerment.
3) Community integration and destigmatization of dementia.