Beyond garden design: A review of outdoor occupation in hospital and residential care settings for people with dementia

Lorraine Ng, Eliza Oliver, Kate Laver

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Access to outdoor space is widely recommended for people with dementia. However, there is limited information on the occupations of people with dementia within these spaces. We sought to review the research literature to identify the occupations of people with dementia in outdoor spaces in residential aged care and/or hospitals and report on features that support occupational participation as well as the benefits of occupational participation in these spaces. 

Methods: Scoping review. We searched electronic databases involving health, design, and horticulture literature. Studies were included if they involved people with dementia and considered occupations within gardens or garden-like spaces of hospitals, subacute rehabilitation facilities, or residential aged care. 

Results: We identified 19 articles meeting the review criteria. Outdoor spaces for people with dementia varied in design and supported a range of occupations with the most common being social occupations, gardening, and physical activities. Quantitative studies suggested that benefits of outdoor occupations for people with dementia were improvements in activity participation, social connection, mood, agitation, light exposure, and sleep. Qualitative studies supported these findings and identified additional perceived benefits such as engagement, maintaining identity, health, and reduced levels of distress. Benefits were also reported for families and staff. 

Conclusions: Current literature shows that many occupations can be done outside and that these are beneficial for people with dementia. Despite the wide range of benefits, multiple studies reported that outdoor spaces remain under-utilised. More work is required to design spaces for occupational engagement, support access to outdoor spaces, and promote occupational participation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-118
Number of pages22
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • activity
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • cognitive impairment
  • dementia
  • garden
  • hospital
  • nursing home
  • occupation
  • outdoor
  • participation
  • residential aged care


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