An Intergenerational Tea Dance with Flamingo Chicks

How about a gorgeous video full of warmth to cheer you up this cold January? We are so proud of our intergenerational activities, especially our collaboration with Flamingo Chicks last year. Joining us were residents of Brunelcare’s Robinson House and pupils from New Fosseway School.

Showcasing the impact of these sessions, and the magic of intergenerational connection, be sure to watch the video below. Enjoy!

Unlocking Creativity Through Garden Art

Inspiring Older People and Those Living with Dementia to Express Themselves: from guest writer, Jackie Edwards.

Diving into the world of garden art isn’t just a pastime; it’s a portal to a life bursting with joy, especially for our cherished older generations. Creative Ireland’s study shines a spotlight on this: those older people painting their world with the vibrant strokes of creativity are dodging the spectre of loneliness, side-lining sadness, and kicking stress to the curb. And for those living with dementia, the garden becomes an arena of magic—where stress withers away, and the joy of connection blooms. This isn’t just a hobby; it’s a canvas where life’s golden years get a touch of green-thumb brilliance.

Exploring the benefits

Ongoing research suggests that creativity may be key to healthy ageing, notes the Washington Post, which points out that studies show that participating in activities such as singing, theatre performance, and visual artistry could support the well-being of older adults. Furthermore, it’s noted that creativity “which is related to the personality trait of openness,” can lead to greater longevity. Regarding the link between creativity and those who experience dementia, Age UK notes that there is a developing body of research that suggests engagement with the arts can help such individuals. Arts for Health’s handbook, titled ‘Dementia & Imagination,’ centres on arts workshops for older individuals with dementia which took place in care homes and in NHS settings. Age UK highlights the comments of a participant’s spouse, who said “… his attitude towards the future has improved in the way that he is more positive and no longer dwells on ‘the prognosis!’” Another participant commented on the value of the workshops, noting the soothing nature. “You feel you are achieving something. It’s not completely gone — your mind’s not completely gone.” 

In addition to the numerous benefits that getting creative can have, it’s imperative to take into account those associated with outdoor green spaces, like gardens. In a paper published in the North Carolina Medical Journal, Lincoln Larson and Aaron Hipp, Associate Professors of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University, discussed the value of green spaces (such as parks) regarding health. “People who spend more time in nature enjoy enhanced cognitive functioning and attention and reduced stress. They are also less likely to display anxiety disorders and depression and more likely to report high levels of happiness and well-being.” To further highlight the benefits, particularly in regards to older individuals, a 2022 study of four U.S. cities, for example, found that high residential green space was associated with a reduced risk of dementia among older adults. By injecting creativity into gardening in the form of garden art, older people and those experiencing dementia can reap the benefits of both activities, particularly when it comes to encouraging self-expression. 

Unique and eye-catching sculptures

For those looking to explore creativity by creating garden art, there are no shortage of options out there. HGTV highlights several options for creating garden art with recycled materials — for example, an unused coil of heavy wire can be transformed into the shape of animals and displayed amongst the plants, while lumber scraps can be used to create a unique sculptural piece. “Save the most colourful and interestingly-shaped bottles from your glass recycle bin and decorate a tree or bush with them, preferably one that is dormant in the winter or dead and too large to be easily dug up,” states the post. 

Midwest Living highlights several additional ways to go about creating unique pieces for the garden, from using a wagon to create a statement piece by filling it with colourful plants, painting a checkerboard onto an old stump to create a functional gameboard, or by adding whimsy with a unique stone sculpture — to name just a few. With endless opportunities for creating something truly unique, self-expression can be allowed to flourish — whether it’s through creating something that aligns with one’s personality or interests or simply working with a favorite colour.

Creating sentimental keepsakes

Creating garden art can also benefit older people and those living with dementia by serving as a way to stay connected and spend time with loved ones, as it can help prevent loneliness, contribute to social interaction, and provide support. A 2016 BBC article highlights a survey, which found that 42% of the public think that there is no point in keeping up contact at the stage of the disease in which a person fails to recognise the faces of friends and family. However, the Alzheimer’s Society said that family visits stimulated feelings of happiness, comfort, and security — even as the condition progresses, it said that those with dementia can still hold an ‘emotional memory.’ This means they continue to feel happy long after a visit or experience. 

Exploring creativity through garden art can easily be integrated into family visits and time spent together. Crafts such as creating a sculpture, or a personalized flower bed, can create memories that will last a lifetime. Creating sentimental keepsakes, such as handmade stepping stones for the garden, or creating decorative rocks can make for wonderful creative décor that can put the focus of the craft on family and loved ones while exploring creativity through paints and tactile art (such as by arranging tiles in a mosaic stepping stone). 

Finding solace through simplistic landscaping 

The activity of gardening itself can also bring great benefits to older people and those living with dementia. For example, gardening encourages sensory stimulation, can improve attention span, and helps increase strength and balance while providing a sense of purpose. With that in mind, it’s important to realise that creativity can also be found in traditional gardening, providing an ideal outlet for those who would prefer to tend to a garden rather than do arts and crafts. For instance, creativity can be found in choosing colours for flowers to plant or by arranging a flower bed. Creating floral arrangements from flowers that have been grown in the garden is another way to spark creativity, though it’s imperative to point out the fact that creativity can be explored in more ‘traditional’ ways as well. 

Garden art and creativity can also be explored through the renovation of a garden. For instance, integrating a unique design into a walkway, painting a garden arch or fence, or trimming the hedges into a uniform shape can all serve as therapeutic and creative outlets. Aiming to create a therapeutic garden through biophilic design is just one way in which older people can endeavour to positively transform their own gardens. This can be achieved by integrating key elements such as consistent greenery while ensuring that the biophilic environment is varied, interesting, and engaging in order to properly reflect the natural environment. Adding in plenty of flowers can also work to have a positive benefit on mental health. In fact, one study in which workers were sent flowers to arrange and consider during their break times resulted in 90% finding that it reduced stress levels.

For older people and those living with dementia, green spaces like gardens can provide a myriad of benefits while also serving as a positive outlet for creativity. From creating innovative sculptures to making keepsakes with loved ones, creativity can even be explored through traditional gardening.

About the author

Jackie has worked as a therapist, though is now partially retired and spends her time writing. Part of her therapy work involved working with older people and using horticultural therapy to engage and help with communication. Away from work, she’s married to her husband Brian – and in any free time they have, they’re taken for walks by their two dogs Cox and Pippin.

A Thank You to Our Volunteers of 2023

Reflecting on a year of meaningful connections with our team of extraordinary volunteers.

As the year comes to a close and the festive spirit fills the air, we find ourselves reflecting on the wonderful journey we’ve shared together. As we express our gratitude, we want to shine a spotlight on those who have brought joy and laughter to our therapeutic gardening sessions, intergenerational projects, tech workshops, Wishing Washing Line West participants and Dementia Meeting Centres. Thank you so much to all our volunteers for your support, dedication, and warmth.

We planted, sang, danced, crafted, played games, and felt the sunshine on our faces; we went on trips, made willow wreaths, harvested vegetables, celebrated together and shared stories, meals and smiles.

Our volunteers helped to connect young and old, answered questions about computers and smartphones, provided a friendly face and listening ear to carers facing bereavement, cleaned the dishes after a shared lunch, grew hops together, and fulfilled wishes of residents in care. Together, we visited care homes across Bristol to brighten days with person-centred, light-hearted activity sessions.

Thanks to our shared efforts, our community gardens across Bristol are thriving. We are indebted to the many groups of corporate volunteers who have come along for a day and helped us with bigger tasks, like clearing, fencing and painting. Your support is very much appreciated and helps us provide inclusive, accessible gardening for older people in Bristol – thank you.

We aim to deliver sessions that benefit wellbeing in a holistic way. It was beautiful to hear this reflected back in a poem by one of our recent volunteers, Samantha Tucker, who visited our dementia-friendly allotment in Brentry as part of the Shift Practical Sustainability Course. Here is an excerpt from her poem, ‘Voices of the Allotment’:

What if we all realised that growing
One seed is akin to a rebellion?
That even when people are forgetting;
Slipping bits away from themselves,
Like a traveller washed up on an island,
Seeking familiarity –
That it might be found in:
The richly scented rosemary
Or the cloddy touch of soil,
Thick with clay
And reminiscent of art class.

Who knew that slips of self might
Be found between
The sprout stems and rhubarb?
That in the tracing of fingers
On the earth,
One’s own place might be remembered
Or less misunderstood.

The whole poem can be found here.

As we bid farewell to 2023, we look forward to the opportunities that the coming year holds. With the support of our amazing volunteers, we look forward to continuing our mission of ‘lighting up later life’. One exciting project we have starting in 2024 is our new dementia-friendly allotment in South Bristol. We can’t wait to open our gates to new volunteers and participants alike and share the joy of gardening with new faces.

So thank you, dear volunteers, for your commitment and efforts, your enthusiasm, your time, and the kindness that you shared with us throughout the year. We are truly grateful to have you with us.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with hope, joy, and many moments of happiness, and are looking forward to seeing you in 2024.

Meeting Centre Team Wins Hennell Award

We are so proud of our Dementia Meeting Centre team for winning the prestigious Hennell Award for 2022/23.

Presented by University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies (ADS), the Hennell Award for Innovation & Excellence in Dementia Care celebrates those that have demonstrated the ability to create positive change for individuals living with dementia.

Praised for their significant contribution to promoting person-centred care, our fabulous Meeting Centres were recognised as having energised and imaginative leadership. The judging panel were also especially impressed by our team’s innovative and excellent standard of work, highlighting their ability to overcome barriers by a range of means, and our centres’ clear link between the learning gained from ADS-facilitated courses and the outcomes for people living with dementia and their carers.

“On behalf of the Alive team, I am delighted that our Meeting Centres have been recognised by the University of Worcester. We encourage people to remain active following diagnosis. Thanks to our professional, skilled and passionate staff, our members have built strong relationships and supportive communities that helps them continue to live independently and enjoy life. We also have loads of fun!”

Louise Spencer, Dementia Meeting Centre Manager

The award was formally presented to our CEO Isobel Jones and Nicola Taylor (Delivery and Training Manager) at the 17th UK Dementia Congress in November by Dr Chris Russell (Senior Lecturer, ADS) and Dr Shirley Evans (Director, ADS).

We’d like to thank the judges and entire team at ADS for their ongoing support of our Meeting Centres. And a very warm congratulations to our team for their well-deserved win.

Find out more about our Dementia Meeting Centres here.

Celebrating Well-being

To mark the culmination of the Building Mental Health Resilience project over the past year, a celebration event was held at St James’ Priory in the centre of Bristol.

Older people who had taken part in this collaborative project were invited in recognition of their valuable contribution to the positive outcomes of this initiative.

Funded by St Monica Trust, the project aimed to improve older people’s awareness of their mental health and equip them with everyday tools to manage and improve this as a means of enhancing individual well-being. Working alongside different communities of older adults across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, the project explored the different mental health and emotional well-being needs of individuals experiencing a broad range of challenges in their lives.

This included the needs of older carers supporting those living with dementia, members of Bristol’s black and minority ethnic elders’ groups, as well as asylum seekers and refugees seeking sanctuary in the city. The project also reached out to older individuals accessing their local social prescribing service through Mendip Vale Medical Group which offers support to those living within both urban and rural areas.

Using a blend of creative expression workshops and training programmes, focusing on increasing emotional awareness and promoting the use of self-help techniques, participants were invited to share their personal and collective experiences during the project.

Well-being Cards

Based on the collective learnings from these groups, this has led to the co-production of a set of Well-being Cards. With the aim of reaching a far wider audience, these cards offer a variety of tools and techniques to promote positive well-being and resilience as well as encouraging older adults to think and talk about their mental health. The cards have been designed to be interactive and have space for personal reflections. Those who attended the celebration event received a complimentary set of these Well-being Cards as a thank you for their valuable contribution to the project.

It was wonderful to bring together some of the amazing elders who have shared their valuable words of wisdom which helped to inform the Well-being Cards. Hopefully, the wider use of these cards will support many more people to feel comfortable talking about their emotional health in the future.

My thanks goes to all those involved in this project.

Julie Drew – Project Manager

#WorldMenopauseDay 2023

Today marks #WorldMenopauseDay. Hear from our CEO Isobel Jones on steps we are making towards becoming menopause-aware.

It’s time to start talking about the menopause.

With approximately 13 million women in the UK being peri- or post-menopausal, menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace.

Actively working to challenge the stigma surrounding the menopause has been a real focus of mine this year, partly based on our ethos of valuing staff and ageing well, but also due to personal experience.

It’s an understatement to say that menopausal symptoms like anxiety, brain fog, and mood swings can have an effect on your personal and professional life. It’s of the utmost importance that we foster environments whereby women feel comfortable reaching out for support and sharing their experiences. Especially in the workplace.

Giving a presentation on the subject as part of our staff training, and writing a menopause-specific policy into our Staff Handbook are just two of the steps we’ve taken as a charity towards becoming menopause-aware.

Increasing understanding and ensuring adjustments are available, if needed, aren’t just helpful for other women. They’re essential for everyone – so that we can all develop the skills to support our colleagues, friends, and family.

It’s amazing to see in our office at Alive that the menopause is a normal topic of conversation. Free of taboo. And I want to thank my colleagues for their openness and honesty as we strive to ensure that no one has to suffer in silence.

World Alzheimer’s Month 2023

The theme of this year’s World Alzheimer’s Month is ‘Never too early, never too late’, with Alzheimer’s Disease International calling on everyone to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and the risk factors linked to all types of dementia.

To commemorate World Alzheimer’s Day this Thursday, we’re delivering a Dementia Friends (DF) session at our South Glos Dementia Meeting Centre, joining Alzheimer’s Society’s plans to use the day to help educate, encourage support of and demystify dementia.

Winsome, our Meeting Centre manager and Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Ambassador, will be running the session and says:

Many people know someone with dementia. In the UK, with over 900,000 people affected with dementia, it is becoming increasingly more common to know someone with the condition. However, how dementia presents in each person is unique to that person. The aim of the DF session, is to give our family, carers, and spouses the opportunity to get a wider understanding of dementia. Knowledge will not change the symptoms, but understanding why a person with dementia behaves as they do will help everyone better support their loved ones at home.

This information sharing is part of the way that the SGDMC helps and supports our members to adapt to the changes dementia brings.

Introducing our new Empathy Suit Experience Training

We are so proud to be offering our new Empathy Suit Experience training to anybody working with older people and those living with dementia. Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of welcoming the Alzheimer’s Society UX & Web Design team to try out the new experience.

What is The Empathy Suit Experience?

Introducing the Empathy Suit – a suit made up of 13 components which work to inhibit mobility, motor skills, vision, and hearing – giving the wearer a unique sense of how it may feel to be a person living with dementia and older age impairment. Literally “putting them in the shoes,” of the people they support. 

Set simple, everyday tasks such as moving objects on a table and walking from a to b, attendees take it in turns to try on the suit which mimics Parkinsonian tremors, arthritis, tinnitus, impaired vision, confusion, heaviness and more. Watch the introductory video and see the suit on here:

Training with the Alzheimer’s Society

This August, several team members from the UX & Web Design team came into our offices for a bespoke Empathy Suit Experience training day. Setting them tasks to complete, such as walking short distances, reading, and moving objects, the team took it in turns to try on the suit. With their work focussed on the accessibility of the Alzheimer’s Society webpage, we also tasked them with navigating their site from the point of view of one of their users who may be living with dementia and older age impairment.

The results were eye-opening, with attendees praising the the suit’s ability to restrict movement, sharing that they’d gained not only a greater understanding of dementia, but also of the feedback they’d received from older people using the website. With plans to put their experiences into place, we’re honoured to have shared such an emotive experience with everyone. A huge thank you to the Alzheimer’s Society for taking part.

I think the suit experience should be mandatory for all care home staff.
Great experience.


Learn More

Ideal for anybody working with older people, and those living with dementia, including:

  • Healthcare Sector
  • Public Services
  • Retail
  • Academia

Get in touch today to chat to us about bespoke courses by calling 0117 377 4756 or emailing Find out more here.

Open Days at South Glos Meeting Centre

This July, we opened the doors to our SGDMC to anyone living with mild to moderate dementia in the local area. Providing a delicious afternoon tea and the opportunity to find out more about the group, we shared advice, stories, and support with others in our community.

Our members and carers were involved in both the planning and delivery of events on the day, all choosing activities and engaging in conversations with our visitors. One talented carer baked 40 scones to mark the occasion, with another leading on the exercise to reduce trips and falls.

We had time to tell our visitors that we support our members with adjusting to the changes dementia brings, be they social, emotional, practical or physical.

Following the two successful open days, and thanks to the hard work of our group members – and staff and volunteers alike – we now have new families who have since visited our SGDMC again. We’re over the moon to be welcoming them, and look forward to them joining us on a regular basis.

If you missed the Afternoon Tea event, you can still book a free taster session with us where you can try some activities, meet others on a similar journey, and get to know our amazing team.

If you would like to find out how the SGDMC can support you adjust to the changes dementia brings, do give us a call on 07377 197 893 or email We would love to hear from you!

Fancy finding out more about the benefits of our Dementia Meeting Centres? Read our latest Member Satisfaction Survey and update from Project Manager, Louise, here.

Dementia Meeting Centre Satisfaction Survey

Hear from our Meeting Centre Project Manager, Louise Spencer, on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from members of our Meeting Centres in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Members Living with Dementia

All our members reported that they enjoyed the groups, liked the atmosphere, liked the other people who attended, and appreciated the staff and volunteers.

I look forward to Tuesdays to get out, meet up with new friends, chat, play games and have lunch.


It’s brilliant; it’s the best thing I do!


Showing us that the Meeting Centres are a safe space to talk about dementia without any stigma or judgement, one member said:

I like to talk about dementia [here].


Members who are Carers

Meeting Centres were also rated positively by carers including the opening hours, staffing, expertise, ability to talk to staff, support available for members and carers, and also support from other carers. 

The centre has been an invaluable source of support and information. Mum loves attending, enjoys all the activities and the social aspect that it brings.


Appreciating the range of activities and how they are tailored for members, one carer liked how the activities were:

All inclusive, even for those who are seated in a wheelchair.


This has been a godsend. I don’t know how I or we could have managed without it. No favouritism. They treat everyone equally. They give us the chance to speak up and do.


The weekly meetings have been a lifeline for me and my husband […] He remembers very little now, but remembers the club members.


We will continue to run Carers Corner to build on the close connections that carers are making to keep positive and support each other, both at the Meeting Centre and also independently using WhatsApp groups. 

Following the introduction of exercises to help reduce falls, members are feeling confident to ask for more physical activities to help members stay fit and maintain good balance. We are really pleased to be expanding our physical activities such as walking, music and movement and games, and also providing more health information sessions which we will organise in partnership with our colleagues in the NHS. 

July 2023