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Dementia Research Articles

Tracy Smith-Carrier and Laura Beres, School of Social Work, King’s University College, and McCormick Dementia Services
2016 – 2019


This follow-up study to the 2015 therapeutic garden project was conducted in partnership with two professors from the Department of Social Work at King’s University College. Although research literature has documented the positive effects of therapeutic gardening for persons with dementia, little is known about which particular aspects of gardening are linked to these benefits, and how and why they are important.

The purpose of the project is to explore the therapeutic gardening experiences of persons with dementia and their perspectives on the senses and emotions elicited in the gardening process that may contribute to improvements in mood and enhanced wellbeing.

Ten McCormick Day Program participants were recruited and followed throughout the summer of 2016. The project involved ongoing observations of interactions in the garden, along with six individual interviews with each participant to ask why they may have responded the way they did, and to explore what they might have been thinking or feeling at the time. Their informal caregivers and the garden instructors were also interviewed for their perceptions of the key aspects of the gardening activities for the persons in their care.


The themes that emerged from the data analysis include: the usefulness of activating the senses; the significance of being occupied in meaningful, productive work; the importance of cultivating a sense of curiosity, wonder and learning; the positive gains derived from socialization in a group context; the peace derived from being “in the moment”; and the positive mental and physical well-being derived from participating in the outdoor garden. The findings support the integration of therapeutic gardening for people with dementia.

  1. Smith-Carrier, T., Béres, L., Johnson, K., Blake, C., & Howard, J. (2019). Digging into the experiences of therapeutic gardening for people with dementia: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. Dementia: the International Journal of Social Research and Practice, August 2019.
  1. Howard, J., Beres, L., Smith-Carrier, T., Blake, C., Johnson, K., (2020). Incorporating spirituality in interpretive phenomenological analysis: Innovative methods. UWO Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Graduate Student research Conference. London, ON, Feb 4, 2020. (Oral presentation)
  2. Howard, J., Beres, L., Smith-Carrier, T., Johnson, K., Blake, C. (2019). Growing stronger relationships: Exploring caregivers’ perspectives of a therapeutic gardening program for people with dementia. Canadian Association on Gerontology. Moncton, New Brunswick, Oct 24-26, 2019. (Poster presentation)

If you have any questions, please contact Steve Crawford, CEO, McCormick Care Group, at 519-432-2648 ext. 2319, or by e-mail at