A project which began in a simple tipi tent could help revolutionise the care of dementia patients across the country.
The Tipi Project was launched in the Cairngorms as a monthly event to help ensure people living with the condition did not become socially isolated.
And it has become such a success Alzheimer Scotland staff have teamed up with the Cairngorms National Park to develop a new “world class” outdoor centre – the first of its kind in the UK.
Developed as part of the Heritage Horizons Cairngorms 2030 project, the facility, at Badaguish near Aviemore, will help ensure dementia patients and their carers get access to the outdoors, rather than coping with their condition alone at home.
“It’s hugely ambitious and we’re really excited about how it all develops
David Clyne, head of Heritage Horizons
The Cairngorms project was recently awarded £12.5 million of lottery funds which will also help pay for a “green health referral” scheme, woodland expansion plans, peatland restoration and sustainable transport.
Delivered in partnership with NHS Highland, the green referral scheme will see people with dementia, and other patients, prescribed activities in nature as part of their treatment by GPs.
‘We will share our dementia knowledge with others’
David Clyne, head of Heritage Horizons: Cairngorms 2030, said staff will spend the next two years developing the project, then five years getting it ready before it opens.
“We’ll be working with Badaguish, the outdoor activity centre north of Aviemore, and we will also be developing a range of different projects to share our dementia knowledge with others,” he added.
“And ideally, at the end of the seven years, we would have developed the UK’s first centre of excellence for outdoor dementia care.
“It’s hugely ambitious and we’re really excited.”
Gillian Councill, locality leader for Alzheimer Scotland, is based at the national park and said the idea for the activity centre stems from a project launched for patients in a tipi tent at Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms in 2018.
It proved to be so popular there was eventually a waiting list set up for patients keen to come along for nature sessions.
It was clear people with dementia were benefiting from the initiative and Gillian says it enhances their mental, physical and social wellbeing.
“Being in nature they can escape everyday sounds and stressors and be in an environment where it is really calm and peaceful,” she explained.
Use our interactive graphic below to hear more about the Heritage Horizons 2030 project and the tipi initiative.
GPs will prescribe nature therapy to patients
Staff will work with local medical practices and GPs on the green health referral scheme, including NHS staff at the new Badenoch and Strathspey Community Hospital in Aviemore.
The plans are still in the initial stages and new staff are being recruited.
Meetings have already been set up with local GPs in September to discuss the proposals.
Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland said: “We are delighted that our partnership with Cairngorms National Park Authority has contributed to the success of this Heritage Horizons award.
“Health and wellbeing is greatly affected by the environment in which people live, but also their sense of inclusion.”
The Cairngorm 2030 scheme was awarded £12.5m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund earlier this year.