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mindSCAPE is a 4 year BIG Lottery funded, Wye Valley AONB project which started in April 2014. The project reconnects people living with Dementia and their carers with the landscape and its history, heritage, environment and crafts through a series of free fortnightly creative activities. MindSCAPE aims to improve the metal and physical health of people diagnosed with early onset dementia and their carers by reducing social isolation and helping them to reconnect with the natural environment.
mindSCAPE has followed on from another AONB project, Inside Out – an arts and health project which provided access to the landscape and arts activities to under represented groups, mainly through use of a forest school type site. People who benefitted from this included those visually impaired, with learning difficulties and age related conditions.
The emphasis was placed on Dementia for mindSCAPE because of a perceived growing need. Dementia sufferers were considered amongst the most difficult to reach, often isolated and with limited resources, access to the landscape for both health and mental well being can be difficult.
The project delivery is coordinated by Artspace Cinderford, an arts and education charity who specialise in creating opportunities for disadvantaged people. Participants were recruited initially through a series of taster sessions and liaison with day care centers and partner organisations; referrals are now more common. MindSCAPE sessions are run every other Tuesday, outside if the weather permits, in the Forest of Dean part of the Wye Valley AONB, and last for 2 hours each. Each activity is designed by the artist delivering it to engage participants with the outdoors and the natural environment. Activities are followed by lunch which the whole group sit together to enjoy. Volunteers help contribute to the quality of experience, which allows carers an opportunity to be relieved of pressure and relax during activities.
Examples of activities delivered by local artists include willow weaving, drawing, painting, screen printing, poetry walks, photography, wood carving, natural sculpture, sharing memories of the landscape and more.
In addition to the delivery of 24 workshops a year, mindSCAPE delivers training for professional and family carers, enabling people to feel confident carrying out mindSCAPE type activities independently in their own setting. The project contributes towards the Forest of Dean becoming a ‘dementia friendly’ community and has, in partnership with the Forest of Dean District Council and the Gloucestershire County Council Dementia Education Team, trained a team of voluntary ‘dementia champions’ who will help promote dementia awareness in the area. MindSCAPE also runs a hub, providing signposting and information for people with concerns about their memory, in partnership with Crossroads care and the District Council.
Basic feedback is collected after each activity using a simple form to capture likes and dislikes. More detailed monitoring is carried out every 6 months, 18 months into the project this showed …..
47 sessions delivered
33 Participants – 17 carers, 16 dementia sufferers
Approx 576 attendances, 1,728 hours.
9 volunteers giving 360 volunteer hours.
After 18 months
mindSCAPE is starting to get GP referrals through Alzheimer’s Society.
mindSCAPE is a wonderful opportunity for people living with dementia and their carers to get together with like-minded people, sharing experiences of and interest in landscape and the countryside. The combination of arts and the environment is one which isn’t otherwise available to this hard to reach and often isolated group, and it has proved hugely rewarding to those with a keen interest. The creative and relaxed atmosphere in sessions provides participants with a wonderful experience which they enthusiastically attend on a regular basis. Participants have built close relationships with each other, and now socialise outside of mindSCAPE sessions as well.
People are enjoying the activities and spending time in a beautiful setting; they are creating meaningful relationships with other carers and dementia sufferers through the project, to such an extent that some carers have continued to attend when the person they care for is no longer able.
Quote from project manager
“The lives of people from the Forest of Dean are intrinsically linked to their surroundings; mindSCAPE aims to re-establish or maintain those important connections. The level of interest in mindSCAPE has confirmed the need for a project of this nature, and we are delighted with how it is going.”
Quote from participant
“I’m able to settle into these sessions and remain for the whole time. Sometimes I have to leave activities after only a short time. Not with this.”
“Friendly, accepting and uncritical of limitations, wonderful outlet”
“Nice to meet people in the same situation who understand, but we don’t necessarily have to talk about it”
Key search words: Dementia, Art, Landscape
Photo Credits: Wye Valley AONB Partnership