We recently took a trip to the Dementia Australia Dementia Friendly Garden in Bridge Street Port Macquarie, to meet some of its carers and see how the garden itself is coming along 5 months later. It was very clear from the outset that the garden was absolutely flourishing under the watchful eye of its carers and was already having such a positive effect on so many lives.

As you enter the garden you are greeted by the blush of a stunning crepe myrtle tree, magenta pink and full of blooms. Along the way you might stop to admire the sculptures created from old farming implements and cooking utensils from eras past. Explore the masses of aromatic herbs and take in the scent of fresh mint, thyme, rosemary and even aniseed. You can take a seat in the outdoor gathering space. Take off your shoes and wriggle your toes in the sand beneath your feet. The scent of gardenia is carried on the breeze as you sit and enjoy the tranquility of the gently bubbling brook and the chirping of the local bird life overhead.

The senses play a big role in the recollection of memories – how many times have you smelt a perfume and it has reminded you of someone dear to you? Colour is also very important because people living with dementia can have problems with depth perception and contrasting colour can assist. By including pops of colour in the garden it is another way to make the sensory experience even more stimulating.

The garden is not huge but packs a lot in and is designed to create the experience of a meandering journey to evoke memories and reduce anxiety.

Gary Thomas, program manager with Dementia Australia in Port Macquarie, explained that the garden was designed as a complete sensory experience and this is most certainly reflected in many of the flowers, herbs, use of textural and tactile items like pebbles and sand and the inclusion of two water features.

Adjacent to the garden is a spacious conference room which opens out onto a wide shaded verandah overlooking the garden. Its the perfect place for Dementia Australia official meetings, workshops and the monthly carers book club.

The Dementia Friendly Garden is truly special and you can feel the memories and the love and care that has gone into it, in every little nook and cranny. As we talk to Hazel and Gerald (dementia carers and garden volunteers) and Sarah (a person living with dementia and garden volunteer) – you can hear the pride in their voices and sense that this place has become a part of them and they a part of it.

The garden is tucked away in suburbia, buffered on all sides by medium density housing. It is a tranquil hidden oasis and is open to the public every working day. Everyone is welcome to visit.

Watch our short film on the making of the garden and how it’s impacting the lives of so many.

The Dementia Friendly Garden was generously designed free of charge by Sym Studio. The garden was then built by BNJ Landscaping. The Westport Club is proud to have been a contributor to the Dementia Friendly Garden, donating $20,000 to the project.