Forests and dementia

First findings by a University of Dundee PhD student have shown how the woodland environment can help people with early stage dementia. The ranger-led pilot activity programme offered meaningful experiences that contributed to well-being and feelings of self-worth.

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10 week activity programme

The study involved a ten-week pilot programme in Callander Wood, Falkirk. Led by Forestry Commission Scotland rangers, it involved three hours of woodland-based activities once a week. These included walks, tree planting, fire lighting and woodland cooking, nature photography, willow sculpting and tree and bird identification.

This innovative approach could compliment traditional health approaches. It offers a chance for participants to stay active and connected with their community, and to keep their independence as long as possible. Given the results, Forestry Commission Scotland plans to roll out the programme to new locations in the future.

Evidence summary

The PhD research study Forests as places of mental well-being: the meaning and use of urban forests by people with early-stage dementia is being carried out by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. through the departments of Geography and Social Dimensions of Health Institute (SDHI).

Forestry Commission research note Forests as places of mental well-being for people with dementia (PDF 2.3MB) contains evidence from the literature review, early research and interviews, and discusses the first results of the programme.

Case studies

The dementia and woodland environment case studies from the literature review show ways woodlands and green spaces can contribute to improving the health and well-being of people with dementia. They give examples of recent projects, with a focus on Scotland.