Focus on sound and dementia



“What can you hear?”

This question was posed to our Potager Peas – one of our six, dementia-friendly groups in Cornwall – at their last session at Potager garden, Constantine. The group meet here fortnightly to take part in purposeful activity in the garden; from picking flowers for the café tables and feeding the chickens, to building bonfires and making damper bread.

In order to document the sounds they could hear in different places in the garden, the group were invited to complete our sound map activity: by sitting in a spot of their choice, in different places around the garden at Potager, the individuals drew themselves in the centre of a piece of paper and wrote or drew what they could hear around them. Each Potager Pea took the activity in their own direction, some using words, other using drawings, some sticking to the sound map structure, others creating abstract images which reflected their experience of sound.

One of our Potager Peas Diane said: “Listening makes me feel calm, especially being here under the trees”. The activity radiated a sense of peace and relaxation throughout the group; individuals said it felt “meditative” and relieved feelings of anxiety for them.

“Why sound?”

Our Potager Peas are currently taking part in a year-long project titled Observations in Nature, funded by the Arts Council. For twelve sessions, the group select a theme for the week and take photographs on one disposable camera which relate to this theme. These images are then developed and made into a photo-book, in the order they were taken, so to preserve the narrative of the group’s experiences. The project provides another platform for the group to document their shared experiences in nature, whilst inviting another form of cognitive stimulation and topic of conversation. The group will then take part in a book-making session where they will make smaller A6 sized books to be attached to the centre of the A5 photo-books, which will appear in an exhibition.

“What else happened?”

We were very lucky to be visited by Christopher Cook, a researcher from Goldsmiths, University of London. Chris is currently doing a PhD which focuses on sound, environments and dementia. He is investigating how dementia changes the ways in which we listen to and make sense of our environments, and what this might imply for the study of sound in modern life more generally. Throughout the session, Chris recorded the group engaging in the sound map activity, as well as their interactions with the garden and nature more widely: this sound collage will feature as part of the Observations in Nature exhibition in the spring. “It was lovely to hear from everyone about how much they enjoy being a part of the Potager Peas”, he said. “It’s clear that people really look forward seeing their friends and having fun together in this beautiful place. I recorded the sounds of the breeze in the trees intermingling with gales of laughter from all over the garden. Thank you all for being so welcoming!”.

Below are a selection of the sound maps made by the group: we love how different they are!

Our sound map activity is free to download from our resource library along with our other nature-based activities.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s