About the Project
The Parks Trust is an independent charity that cares for over 6,000 acres of parkland and green space in Milton Keynes. This includes the river valleys, ancient woodlands, lakesides, parks and landscaped areas alongside the main roads that represent 25% of the city and they continue to take ownership of additional areas of green space as Milton Keynes expands. Their mission is: ‘… to create beautiful and inspirational parks, lakes and landscapes that will be loved by the people of Milton Keynes, forever.’
In collaboration with The National Heritage Lottery Fund, The Parks Trust have formed a dementia support group supported by The Parks Trust staff, volunteers and other interested parties [charities, support organisations etc]. The overall aim of this group will be to better accommodate those living with dementia to access nearby parks for walks, with a view to benefit the people’s overall mental wellbeing. The Parks Trust are also working with Dementia Adventure, an organisation whose remit is to help those living with dementia to retain a sense of adventure in their lives.
A research team based at The Open University, led by Dr Jitka Vseteckova, were invited to evaluate the impact of the walks on people living with dementia. The aim of the evaluation is to understand what the barriers and facilitators are to engagement with these walks and how can regular attendance be ideally facilitated. The researchers are interested in exploring and learning more about how people interact with the outdoors in this context as well as with other people.
It is widely recognized that it is healthy for everybody to get outdoors. Green spaces and nature can be restful, inspiring and invigorate the senses. We know from research that spending time outdoors improves physical and mental health. However, getting out may be challenging for people with dementia living in community or in a care home.
The Parks Trust in Milton Keynes and the OU are working together to evaluate a new initiative of Walking Programme set currently as 5 Ways cafes in the local Manor Parks (Great Linford, MK) for people living with dementia in Milton Keynes and their families, which will be an exemplar of interest to a wide range of UK care homes and volunteer organisations.
We aim to measure the engagement and impact of the Walking Programme on the care home residents and to understand what keeps people with dementia engaging with the walks and enjoying, and benefiting from, the outdoor environments. It will take into account practical issues (e.g. staffing) as well as emotional engagement (how does it feel to be in the natural environment) to gain a full understanding of the factors that affect continuous engagement. It aims to measure the experience and outcomes for residents, improve practices not only for The Park’s Trust and local care home, but also for other service providers and commissioners of care home and voluntary sector services for residents with dementia.
We plan to interview family members, Walking Programme organisers and residents and at each walk, we plan to conduct observations and take notes on the engagement of the residents with the Walking Programme, and those who choose to cease the walks and /or not engage with the Walking Programme. This will give us a full picture of the uptake and continuous engagement with the Walking Programme for care home residents with dementia, with perspectives and experiences from everybody involved in the process.
Findings will enable us to provide a guidance for those organising the walks and care home staff, and those who commission and promote these. Research reports on theories underpinning adherence to/continuous engagement with exercise in older people, however none of these underpins adherence to/continuous engagement with Walking Programme for older care home resident living with dementia. Therefore, we also plan to produce a set of strategies to continuous engagement with Walking Programme in care home residents living with dementia. The walking programme plan is scheduled to take place until July 2022.
This research is a quality improvement programme – that will lay out a framework and a roadmap for stakeholders who are to improve current services and inform future initiatives. The activity plan is scheduled to take place until July 2022.