‘Ways of being’ in the domestic garden for people living with dementia: doing, sensing and playing

Christina Buse, Andrew Balmer, John Keady, Sarah Nettleton, Sarah Swift

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Domestic gardens represent a site for enacting embodied identity and social relationships in later life, and negotiating tensions between continuity and change. In the context of dementia, domestic gardens have significant implications for ‘living well’ at home, and for wider discussions around embodiment, relational selfhood and agency. Yet previous studies exploring dementia and gardens have predominantly focused on care home or community contexts. In light of this, the paper explores the role of domestic gardens in the everyday lives of people living with dementia and their households, using qualitative, creative methods. This includes filmed walking interviews and garden tours, diaries and sketch methods, involving repeat visits with six households in England. Findings are organised thematically in relation to different ‘ways of being’ in the garden: working in and doing the garden; being in and sensing; and playing, empowerment and agency. These different ‘ways of being’ are situated within relationships with household members, neighbours, and non-human actors including pets, wildlife and the materiality of the garden. Garden practices illustrate continuity, situated within embodied biographies and habitus. However, identities, practices and gardens are also subject to ongoing readjustment and reconstruction. The conclusion discusses implications for extending literature on gardens and later life, describing how social and material relationships in domestic gardens are renegotiated in the context of dementia, while highlighting opportunities for ‘play’, active sensing and agency. We also explore contributions to understandings of dementia, home and place, and implications for garden design and care practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAgeing and Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Dec 2022


  • dementia
  • gardens
  • home
  • practice
  • everyday life
  • creative methods


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