Young onset dementia (YOD) is identified with those cases of dementia occurring in people under the age of 65. These cases are rarer than more common forms dementia such as Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia, but even so it is estimated to have a prevalence of up to 81 ever 1000 people between the age of 45 and 65.
Typically, an individual diagnosed with YOD will still be working at the time of diagnosis, be physically active and may find it harder to accept losing skills and independence at such a young age. Commonly, people with YOD will display less cognitive symptom than people with other types of dementia, and will instead show more behavioural symptom, at least in the initial phases of the condition.
Often, specialist care and services targeting YOD specifically are hard to come by, and people with YOD living in care or nursing homes will be placed together with other dementia patients possibly much older than them. As for other types of dementia, there is no definitive cure, but a series of interventions have been shown to lessen symptoms and allow for better disease management.
One of such intervention that has been looked at is gardening.
In 2013 a study was conducted looking at how community gardening as an intervention impacted symptoms of a group of people diagnosed with YOD.
Participants were asked to engage in gardening sessions for 2 hours weekly, and for a total of 46 sessions.
At the end of the period, participants were asked what difference the gardening activities made, if any. Most of the participants reported higher degrees of:
- Feeling useful, having achievement;
- Feeling valued;
- Reduced anxiety.
Caregivers of the participants also reported feeling more satisfied and confirmed the feelings of the people living with YOD they cared about.
The scientists concluded that although preliminary, results showed that structured gardening may have a positive impact on cognition, mood, and over-all wellbeing of people living with YOD.
Hewitt, P., et al., (2013), Does a structured gardening programme improve well-being in young-onset dementia? A preliminary study, in “British Journal of Occupational Therapy”, 76(8), pp. 355-361.