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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

August 2006 Issue

Research Design Connections
Studies show the benefits of gardens for the mentally ill, reasons for walking, and how greenways help preserve urban biodiversity.

By Jean Marie Cackowski-Campbell, ASLA, and Sally Augustin

Research Design Connections William L. Brown

Landscape Architecture, in partnership with the web-based newsletter Research Design Connections, will continue to use this column (the previous example appeared in the May 2006 issue) to report current research of interest to landscape architects from a wide array of other fields.

We welcome your comments, suggestions about future topics, and studies you have encountered in your own practice.

How Gardens Benefit Alzheimer’s Patients

More and more designers are including gardens when creating institutional settings for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Two recent studies explore the science behind the uplifting effects of such gardens and take note of successful design features. The first study, by sociologist John Zeisel, advocates coordinating pharmacological treatments and other treatments for Alzheimer’s disease such as providing gardens and visual access to nature, even in institutional settings. His research suggests that designed spaces that encourage Alzheimer’s disease patients to function at their highest levels share several common elements: “porches, patios, and gardens that provide residents with continuous access to the out-of-doors.”

The reasons behind the long-observed benefits of gardens for Alzheimer’s patients are numerous. Early-stage Alzheimer’s patients, for instance, have confused internal time clocks, and “[e]xposure to the sun for even half an hour early in the day aligns various bodily time clocks, while being physically in contact with the time of day, the weather, and the passing of the seasons helps residents living with Alzheimer’s remain aware of time passing,” Zeisel notes. These positive effects of gardens have been verified through scientific research.

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