Community garden helps adults with dementia connect with community

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and to commemorate, community members are invited to become dementia friends and visit the community garden.
Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 7:33 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2022 at 7:36 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and to commemorate, community members are invited to become dementia friends and visit the community garden designed to create a bridge between volunteers and adults with Alzheimer’s.

“They remember the garden from week to week, and they anticipate coming back to the garden. What they remember most is the feeling that they had when they’re here, that they felt valued as a human being and as a human being that can give something back to society,” explained Kristen Abbott-Anderson, an assistant professor of nursing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

In Mankato, Act on Alzheimer’s, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Living Earth Center are educating the community on ways to interact, treat and change people’s perceptions of dementia. Their goal is to transform the way people think, talk and act about the disease.

“Personally, I don’t know a ton about dementia. I’m still learning about it, but I think it’s great to just have those interactions with those individuals, to kind of gain a greater sense of empathy for them and just get to interact with them and just support them in this stage of their life,” said Ashlin Young, a student at MSU Mankato and community garden volunteer.

For the third year, the Garden Engagement welcomes residents from the Pillars of Mankato Senior Living.

Residents get to enjoy the weather, fresh air, the smell of flowers, water the plants, and more with volunteers from MSU.

“Being able to meet with young students and kind of tell their story, maybe even sing or reconnect with maybe their farm upbringing or something along those lines really has an opportunity to connect the past with the future. And I think that those connections are incredibly important,” explained Laura Peterson, executive director of Living Earth Center.

MSU students majoring in social work, nursing, communication sciences and disorders use this opportunity to interact with visitors with dementia-friendly materials, snacks, and lots of conversation.

“Taking part in a program like this allows both the individual living with the disease and their care partner to engage in something that’s fun to do together, something that is meaningful, that they can work on together and share happy memories that’s not associated with Alzheimer’s,” added Abbott-Anderson.

Program leaders say it is a way to help adults with dementia develop a sense of community.

The public can visit the garden at any time, and they are encouraged to write in the guest book.

Garden EngAGEment events are scheduled from 10 to 11 a.m. every Monday until Aug. 8.

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